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Piano Lessons Improve Reasoning in Preschool Children

The hypothesis that music training significantly and specifically enhances spatial-temporal reasoning in young children has recently found strong support. Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb (Neurological Research, 1996, in press) studied 78 children (3-4 years old) divided into three groups. Thirty four children received private piano keyboard lessons, 20 received equally frequent private computer lessons and 24 served as other controls, receiving either singing lessons or no special lessons for six months. Four standard, age calibrated, spatial reasoning tests were given before and after training; one test measured spatial-temporal reasoning and three tests assessed spatial recognition. Post-treatment test scores showed a significant improvement on the spatial-temporal test only for the keyboard group. No group improved significantly on the spatial recognition tests. That the computer group showed no effect provides a control for extra attention, involvement, etc. Music training, specifically piano instruction, is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills. The authors suggest that the improvement in spatial reasoning may be related to the linear spatial layout of the keyboard. They propose that keyboard training may enhance the learning of standard subjects, such as mathematics and science, in which spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly important.
Source: Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb (Neurological Research, 1996, in press)

Study after study confirms that young children who take piano lessons not only improve their coordination; they learn how to concentrate better too, improving reading scores, enhancing their memory skills and increasing their confidence levels. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine are at the forefront of some of the lasts research on the merits of piano lessons for children. Their study, which took place over two years, found that 3 and 4-year-olds who were given weekly piano lessons for a year had improved their puzzle-solving skill by 34 percent over groups who were given singing lessons, computer lessons, or specific instruction at all.  Music is not just notes. It's patterns of notes and relationships between notes that you see as you play," says UCI neurologist Gordon Shaw. "And like in a chess game, you have to be able to see quite a bit ahead to play."

The theory is that exposure to music rewires neural circuits. Researchers in Germany, for example, have concluded that as a child grows, the brain develops parts of the sensory cortex dedicated to physical skills, like riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument. These connections last a lifetime and are directly related to other skills we learn.
Excerpt from the Pascack Press, Wednesday, September 8, 1999


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