Effects of Music Lessons on the Intelligence

One of the first abilities that is enhanced by music is creativity. Studies on children have shown that they paint more creatively, if they simultaneously listen to music. The visual and space orientation capacities have been shown to improve for a short while (10-15 minutes) after listening to music; this is a part of the Mozart effect. It is believed that intelligence levels increase by listening to Mozart’s compositions, hence the name particular name of this effect.

However, from merely listening to further studying music, the latter step is considerably important, and consequently the results can be observed. Simple listening differs significantly from the actual learning process of playing an instrument or singing.
In the process of learning music, the brain modifies and actually enlarges within certain areas that are connected with this particular task. Several studies (Pascual-Leone, 2001) and brain scans have revealed that a musician’s brains is different; for example a piano player has got more gray matter in the region that controls the finger movements.

In the study named “The Effects of Musical Training on Structural Brain Development”, several scientists namely Krista L. Hyde, Alan C. Evans (from Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University), Jason Lerch (Mouse Imaging Centre, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Gottfried Schlaug, Andrea Norton, Marie Forgeard (from the Department of Neurology, Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Beth Israel Deaconess (Medical Center and Harvard Medical School), and Ellen Winner (from the Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA), have brought relevant insight regarding how music really helps to develop our brain, and successively our IQ. They investigated the structural changes that occur in the brain as a result of 15 months of instrumental music teaching program that was conducted for young children; they were compared with another group of children that did not have any musical training.

As expected, the former group showed improved finger movement and rhythm related tasks. However, the tasks that did not involve musical knowledge remained the same. The gray matter development has also been observed in areas other than those directly connected with music, namely, hearing and finger movement. The complex process of learning produces growth in other parts of the brain, and these facts lead to the idea that long-term programs of brain training may help neuron growth in children. This is particularly relevant for those with developmental problems, as well as for grownups with neurological conditions.

Musicians generally have more gray matter (Schlaug et. al., 2005) as compared to non-musicians, and he also showed that children who play instruments have a significant increase in the gray matter quantity. When professional and amateur musicians are compared, it is clearly revealed that the former type who actually practice twice as much have a greater brain development, than the amateurs (Gaser and Schlaug, 2003).
Studies conducted on musicians and non-musicians explain a diversity of differences, some notable and some statistically proven. A testing on cognitive tasks (Schellenberg, 2006) shows that the musicians usually do better than their non-musical peers, when it comes to cognitive tasks. Also, increased memory levels have been noticed in musically trained children within ages between 4 – 6, when compared to the non-musical children of the same age.

The list of tasks where it has been observed that musically trained people perform better (Schellenberg, 2006, and Patel and Iverson, 2007) is:

  • vocabulary
  • math
  • reading
  • verbal memory
  • space orientation skills
  • phonemic awareness.

A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg (2006) shows that musically trained school children got better results on IQ tests. Several intellectual abilities are connected to music learning, and seem to have a beneficial influence in developing musicians’ memory in areas that are connected to fluid intelligence like the speed of processing, verbal comprehension, working memory, and perceptual organization.