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Does Learning Piano Help Make Your Child Smarter?

Would your child get more benefit out of computer lessons or music lessons? A recent study published in Neurological Research magazine recommends Do-Re-Mi over Control-Option-Escape. 

A group of preschoolers in California were given piano lessons once a week, while other members of their class received computer training, and a third group got no special instruction. The budding pianists scored 34% higher than the other groups on tests designed to measure spatial-temporal reasoning skills — those required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering. Interestingly, the computer kids scored no higher than the group who received no special instruction.

The study was led by psychologist Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and physicist Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California at Irvine. The implications of this and future studies can change the way educators view the core school curricula, particularly since music-making nurtures the intellect and produces long-term improvements. "It has been clearly documented that young students have difficulty understanding the concepts of proportion (heavily used in math and science) and that no successful program has been developed to teach these concepts in the school system," stated Dr. Rauscher. "The high proportion of children who evidenced dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning as a result of music training should be of great interest to scientists and educators," added Dr. Shaw.

This remarkable study shows that experiences early in life determine which brain cells (neurons) will connect with other brain cells, and which ones will die away. Because neural connections are responsible for all types of intelligence, a child's brain develops to its full potential only with exposure to the necessary enriching experiences in early childhood. What Drs. Rauscher and Shaw have emphasized has been the causal relationship between early music training and the development of the neural circuitry that governs spatial intelligence. Their studies indicate that music training generates the neural connections used for abstract reasoning, including those necessary for understanding mathematical concepts.

This recent research supports what great teachers have known since Plato — that musical training is part of a complete education. Once parents understand how music can help their children grow, they become strong supporters of our school music programs.



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