Early music training can improve language skills

In a recent weblog entry I described studies that failed to demonstrate significant cognitive effects of musical training on cognitive development (except in children receiving intense musical training). There are important caveats to these findings:

  • The number of children included in these studies is small; as a result, it is possible that small improvements in cognitive development did not rise above the “statistical noise” (Type I error).
  • It is also important to note that these studies focused on particular aspects of cognitive development (mainly linked to mathematical skills). They did not explicitly ask whether music development results in other cognitive improvements. We recently described studies showing lasting hearing benefits of early music education.

A recent article reviews evidence that early musical training results in improvements in language acquisition. Of particular interest are the longitudinal studies described in the article (studies that follow children for long periods, starting at the time musical training begins). For example, one year of instrument music training resulted in greater improvement in verbal memory. In another study, training in visual-auditory associations (including the use of musical notation) improved writing skills of children with developmental dyslexia. Children who received music lessons for 6 months showed improvements in reading and linguistic perception abilities, but no such improvement was observed in children who received painting lessons.

Asaf Keller