‘Music makes you smarter’ is the ultimate quote to live by. For all those music lovers out there who would rather spend their time playing an instrument than sit down to complete boring school work, here are five scientific research studies that provide strong insight into the positive influence of music education on verbal skills, verbal memory and reading skills.
Improve Musical Skills to Improve Memory
Need a little help with memorizing important dates or boring history lectures? The remedy is easier and more fun than you thought. In the year 1998, a study was conducted on sixty female students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong to determine the truth behind effects of music education on verbal memories.
Out of the sixty participants, thirty of them have had at least six years of training on a western musical instrument before the age of twelve. The remaining thirty participants have had no musical training background whatsoever. These two groups were similar in terms of age, grade point average and years of training to maintain consistency and to prevent any other factors from affecting the results.
A list learning task was presented to these sixty students wherein the participants were presented with sixteen words from four categories, namely, family member, country, vegetable, and furniture. These words were orally presented three times to each subject in a fixed random order who were later asked to recall as many words as possible from the list. The results showed that participants with music education recalled nearly sixteen percent more words than the others.
Age No Barrier to Positive Results
A similar study was repeated in 2003, this time with a much younger crowd. Two groups of children were chosen, one that takes part in music education and the other without. The results were similar. Those who invested time in learning an instrument showed a remarkable improvement in verbal memory than their counterparts.
A year after the study, a follow-up was conducted on the same of group of children which showed that those who continued or began music training showed visible improvement in verbal memory and those than discontinued showed no change at all.
A Little Science to Back the Theory
Regular musicians were the next subjects in a 2007 experiment that examined the brainstem encoding of the linguistic pitch to determine if musical training was the reason behind better cognitive skills. The conclusion was a much-expected answer: yes. Their brainstem encoding proved to be more robust and faithful in nature compared to non-musicians. This experiment also provided a neurophysiological explanation for a higher language learning capability that is generally exhibited by musicians.
The Similarities are Pretty Evident and Powerful
Parallels between music and language are that they both involve formal notations, which are read from left to right. Notations used in music include symbols that represent information about sound and time, just like language. Listening to music as well as speech demands attention to the temporal order of swiftly changing acoustic events.
Researchers, in 2008 confirmed a correlation to exist between instrumental music training for three or more years and enhancement of auditory discrimination, improvement in fine motor skills, expansion of vocabulary, and better nonverbal reasoning. This research then continued to show that when the intellectual ability is controlled, young adults with musical training background still scored higher than their non-musical counterparts in verbal reasoning and other tests related to improved cognitive skills.
A Combined Study of all Studies to Solidify the Truth behind Music and Reading Skills
A meta-analysis of thirty studies was also done in the same year to verify the positive effects of music education on reading skills. These thirty studies used a variety of musical interventions and tested the degree of effects on reading skills, which resulted in a strong and significant value.
The skills learned during music education and displayed to be effective in improving reading skills include pairing alphabets to phonetic patterns, rapid decoding, combining segmentation of words, and blending of sounds. These techniques require very little assistance from assessment methodology and are believed to be the reason behind this drastic improvement. The thirty studies showed consistent improvement in students irrespective of the intensity and duration of music classes per week.
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