Piano Makes You Smarter?
Perhaps better news for parents rather than kids, a new study suggests that after nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, young students’ IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers.
The Canadian study supports the idea that musical training can do more for kids than simply teach them their scales. It also exercises parts of the brain that are useful in math, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits.
“With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved–such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords–the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect,” said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg E. Glenn Schellenberg , of the University of Toronto at Mississauga.
Over 10 years ago, it was said argued that simply listening to Mozart triggered temporary increases in spatial intelligence. While this “Mozart Effect” has proven difficult to replicate in subsequent studies, the idea that music or musical training might raise IQ took hold in the scientific community.
The study offered 12 Toronto-area 6-year-olds free weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music, described by Schellenberg as Canada’s “most prestigious music conservatory.” 6-year-olds were chosen because their developing brains still retain a large degree of “plasticity,” defined as “the ability of the brain to change and adapt to environmental stimuli.”
One could argue that any intellectual stimulus would have the same effect as music so Schellenberg provided a third group of 6-year-olds with free, weekly drama classes. A fourth group of 6-year-olds received no classes during the study period.
The children’s IQs were tested beforehand and at the time of retesting, all of the students–even those not enrolled in music or drama classes–displayed increases in IQ of at least 4.3 points, on average, Schellenberg said. “That’s just a common consequence of going to school,” he said.
Focusing first on the children taking the drama class, Schellenberg found they “didn’t differ [in increased IQ] from those in the no-lessons group.” However, kids taking the acting class did tend to score higher on aspects of sociability than other children, probably due to the cooperative nature of putting on a play.
The only added boost to IQ came to kids taught either piano or voice. According to Schellenberg, children in the music groups “had slightly larger increases in IQ than the control groups,” averaging 7-point gains in their IQ scores from the previous year–2.7 points higher than children placed in either the drama or no-lessons group.
This increase in IQ is considered small but significant, and was evident across the broad spectrum of intelligence measured by the Weschler test, Schellenberg said.
Although it remains a theory, she speculated that “understanding music, particularly learning to translate musical symbols into sound, might be transferring to other abilities, because they are sharing similar neuro pathways.”
Both Schellenberg and Rauscher agreed that, ideally, music lessons should be available to children as part of their education.
“We don’t have any evidence that music is unique in this regard,” Schellenberg said, “but on the other hand, it’s certainly not bad for you. Our studies suggest that extracurricular activities are indeed enriching to development.”
This is such an interesting study and one that I have felt to be true for a long time. Music is something that truly is a part of us at during every stage in life and in just about every culture that we are aware of. It’s great to see that it also boosts our ability to learn and expands our IQ into other levels. That’s just a neat bonus!