A new study has found that music training has no positive impact on the cognitive skills of children and does not assure high academic achievement.
The study, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, seeks to uncover the truth behind the widely believed theory that music training can improve academic and cognitive performance. Previous research trials to examine this potential link yielded inconsistent results, with some suggesting that there may be a link between music training and better cognitive and academic performance and others finding little effect.
Researchers Fernand Gobet at the London School of Economics and Political Science, U.K., and Giovanni Sala at Fujita Health University, Japan examined existing data regarding the impact of music training on children's non-music related achievement.
Using data from more than 50 previous studies conducted between 1986 and 2019 involving nearly 7,000 children, the authors found that music training has no effect on improving academic or cognitive skills, regardless of the type of skill, age, and duration of training.
Breaking down the findings a bit further, researchers point to some differences between more complex studies and simpler research projects. For instance, studies that feature multiple active controls (comparing the grades of children enrolled in music lessons to those of kids taking ballet or playing sports) show absolutely no academic or cognitive impact associated with learning music.
In studies that did not include controls or which did not randomize participants into control groups (ones that received different or no training) and intervention groups (ones that received music training), small effects were found.
"Our study shows that the common idea that 'music makes children smarter' is incorrect," Sala said. "On the practical side, this means that teaching music with the sole intent of enhancing a child's cognitive or academic skills may be pointless."
The authors said that training the brain in music will result in the child get better at music, but this benefit will not extend to other expertise like in maths or sciences. However, they did note that music training is beneficial for children in terms of improving their self-esteem and social skills. In addition, other elements of music training, like arithmetical music notation can be beneficial in improving other disciplines.
Although, the hours spent practicing and learning specific motor control and coordination along with the music-reading and listening skills that are needed to play a musical instrument all can contribute to improving brain function that shows up later in life.
So yes, there are benefits to music training but don't expect your little Mozart to be an Einstein.