A new study has shed light on the benefits of musical training for language development in children. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , found that in four to five-year-old children, piano lessons facilitated certain aspects of language development as much as – and in some areas more than – reading instruction.

While the benefits of musical training to speech processing have already been established (and there are many studies that show wide ranging effects and benefits music can have on the brain, and on children’s development)  this study sought to investigate the underlying brain mechanisms that lead to benefits in language development. The study saw 74 Mandarin speaking children, aged four to five, divided into three groups. One group received piano training over six months, one group received reading training, while the third ‘no contact’ group was a control.

All three groups improved equally on general cognitive measures, including IQ tests, working memory and attention, according to the study’s authors, but the group receiving piano training demonstrated improved “behavioural auditory word discrimination in general, as well as word discrimination based on vowels compared with the controls.”

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