London: Music lessons can enhance children's memory, reasoning and planning abilities, leading to improved academic performance, a study has found.
Visual arts lessons also significantly improve children's visual and spatial memory, researchers said.
Music education has been decimated in schools around the globe, due to competition with academic subjects and an increasing lack of funding.
These days, the opportunity to learn an instrument is seen as more of a luxury than a necessary part of education, researchers said.
"Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula," said Artur Jaschke, from VU University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement," said Jaschke. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research is the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. The researchers conducted the study with 147 children across multiple Dutch schools, using a structured musical method.
All schools followed the regular primary school curriculum, with some providing supplementary music or visual arts classes. In these, the children were given both theoretical and practical lessons.
After 2.5 years, the children's academic performance was assessed, as well as various cognitive skills including planning, inhibition and memory skills. Researchers found that children who received music lessons had significant cognitive improvements compared to all other children in the study.
Visual arts classes also showed a benefit: children in these classes had significantly improved visual and spatial short-term memory compared to students who had not received any supplementary lessons.
"Children who received music lessons showed improved language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organise and complete tasks, as well as improved academic achievement," said Jaschke.
"This suggests that the cognitive skills developed during music lessons can influence children's cognitive abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to overall improved academic performance," he said. "We hope that this study will support political developments to reintegrate music and arts education into schools around the world," he said.