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Learning, Arts, and the Brain

The report is sponsored by the Dana Foundation Arts and Cognition Consortium. It is a collaboration of studies conducted by neuroscientists representing seven universities from across the United States pertaining to the association of arts training and higher academic performance. The consortium’s findings provide an understanding of the possible causal relationships between arts training and the ability of the brain to learn in other cognitive domains. The results of the studies should be helpful to students, parents, educators, and the general public in policy-making decisions as related to the importance of high quality arts education in our schools.

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Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood helps Reasoning Skills

A Harvard-based study has found that children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training – not only in tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity (skills honed by the study of a musical instrument), but also on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion (skills not normally associated with music).

While these results are correlational only, the strong predictive effect of training duration suggests that instrumental music training may enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning. Alternative explanations for these results are discussed.

PLOS ONE publication archives of the October, 2008, report.
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Multi-year Music Training Can Enhance Reading Skills and Literacy

Children exposed to a multi-year program of music instruction involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music. According to authors Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy.

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