A study carried out at Boston Children’s Hospital has revealed that those who are trained in music from a young age for two years or more benefit from improved executive brain function.
The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, show that the part of the brain responsible for cognitive processes such as problem solving, behaviour regulation and the processing and retention of information was more active in the musically trained individuals.
Senior study investigator Nadine Gaad, PhD, says ‘Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications’
She continued: ‘While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.’
For the study, a group of 15 musically trained children aged 9 to 12 were compared with a control group of 12 children of the same age. Two groups of adults, divided into professional- and non-musicians were also compared.
Gaab added ‘Our results may have implications for children and adults who are struggling with executive functioning, such as children with ADHD or [the] elderly. Future studies have to determine whether music may be utilised as a therapeutic intervention tool for these children and adults.’
Researchers have noted that children who study music already have strong executive function, something that initially caused their attraction to, and perseverance with, music. They hope to establish whether musical training influences executive function or vice-versa in future studies, following children over time and assigning them to musical training at random.