| piano lessons benefit children
Giving piano lessons to pre-schoolers significantly increases their ability to perform the types of reasoning required for excellence in science and math, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Wisconsin have found.
Surprisingly, lessons on using a computer keyboard provided no similar benefit, the team reported on February 28, 1998 in the journal Neurological Research.
The study involved 78 California children in preschools in Santa Ana, Long Beach and West Covina, and the team found that the beneficial effect was independent of socioeconomic class and parental interest.
In this case, the researchers believe the improvements in mental ability will persist, perhaps for a lifetime, although they do not have data to prove that.
The great improvement shown by the children from the musical training "should be of great interest to scientists and educators," said physicist Gordon L. Shaw of UC Irvine, who is also on the staff of UCI's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
The team recruited 3- and 4-year-olds from three preschools. The children were randomly divided into four groups. One group received daily singing lessons and two 15-minute private piano lessons per week at school.
A second group received only the group singing lessons. Members of the third group received two 15-minute private computer lessons each week, while those in the fourth group received no lessons at all.
At the beginning of the study, each student received four different tests of mental ability, including one that measures spatial-temporal reasoning.
In the spatial test, students might be shown, for example, a picture of a camel broken into four pieces and asked to reassemble it.
At the beginning of the study, all of the students scored at the national norm on the tests.
At the end of the six months, those who received piano lessons scored an average 34 percent higher on the tests of spatial-temporal ability.
The children in the other three groups showed no improvement on any of the tests.