July 28: Scientists have found an unexpected benefit of music lessons — they can boost word power.
Children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than others, according to the study. Plus, the longer the training, the better the verbal memory.
These findings underscore how, when experience changes a specific brain region, other skills in the same region may also benefit.
The research is reported in the journal Neuropsychology by Dr Agnes Chan and colleagues at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who studied 90 boys between six and 15. Half had musical training as members of their school’s string orchestra for one to five years. The others had no musical training.
The researchers gave the children verbal memory tests, to see how many words they recalled from a list, and a comparable images test.
Students with musical training recalled significantly more words than the untrained students, and were better at learning them. There were no such differences for visual memory.
It seems that the more that music training stimulates the brain, the better it can handle other tasks. The team likened it to the way that runners find that stronger legs help them play tennis better.
Another report has shown that training brain activity through a process called “neurofeedback” can improve musical performance by up to 17 per cent, the equivalent of one grade.