Piano teachers have known this all along, but it is now confirmed by the research findings of Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at OshKosh, and Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California at Irvine. The work of Drs. Shaw and Rauscher concentrates on the importance of music in the early developmental stages of childhood and has been widely recognized as groundbreaking, attracting intensive media interest.
The research team in Irvine, California explored the link between music and intelligence and reported that music training - specifically piano instruction - is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills necessary for learning math and science. The new findings, published in the February 1997 issue of Neurological Research, are the result of a two-year experiment with preschoolers, led by psychologist Dr. Frances Rauscher and physicist Dr. Gordon Shawl As a follow-up to their earlier groundbreaking studies which correlated how music can enhance spatial-reasoning ability, the researchers set out to compare the effects of musical and non-musical training on intellectual development.
The experiment included four groups of preschoolers: one group received private piano / keyboard lessons; a second group received singing lessons; a third group received private computer lessons; and a fourth group received no training. Those children who received piano / keyboard training performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial - temporal ability than others.
These findings indicate that music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering. The implications of this and future studies can change the way educators view the core school curriculum, particularly since music-making nurtures the intellect and produces long-term improvements. "It has been clearly documented that young students have difficulty understanding the concepts of proportion (heavily used in math and science) and that no successful program has been developed to teach these concepts in the school system," stated Dr. Rauscher. "The high proportion of children who evidenced dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning as a result of music training should be of great interest to scientists and educators," added Dr. Shaw.
Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw's research is based on some remarkable studies that have recently begun pouring out of neuroscience laboratories throughout the country. These studies show that early experiences determine which brain cells (neurons) will connect with other brain cells, and which ones will die away. Because neural connections are responsible for all types of intelligence, a child's brain develops to its full potential only with exposure to the necessary enriching experiences in early childhood. Their studies indicate that music training generates the neural connections used for abstract reasoning, including those necessary for understanding mathematical concepts. What Drs. Rauscher and Shaw have confirmed has been the causal relationship between early music training and the development of the neural circuitry that governs spatial intelligence. Specifically, earlier studies led by Drs. Rauscher and Shaw reported a causal relationship between music training and spatial-temporal ability enhancement in preschoolers (1994), and among college students who simply listened to a Mozart sonata (1993,1995).
Dr. Frances Rauscher reported their findings to the White House Conference on "Early Childhood Development and the Brain" on April 17, and then later testified before Congress on April 23 on their research results. At a time when more and more pressure is being exerted on both school and family budgets and time, this research is a welcome reminder to decision-makers of the vital role music plans in a child's development.
PIANISTS HAVE MORE EFFICIENT BRAINS
by Dr. Norman M. Weinberger
Scientists in Germany have discovered that pianists have more efficient brains. A group led by Dr. Timo Krings required pianists and non-musicians of the same age and sex to perform complex sequences of finger movements. Their brains were scanned using a technique called "functional magnetic resonance imaging" (fMRI) which detects the activity levels of brain cells, by measuring changes in blood flow. The non-musicians were able to make the movements as correctly as the pianists. However, the amount of brain activity in areas controlling movement was different. The pianists made the correct movements while having less brain activation. Thus, compared to non-musicians, the brains of pianists are more efficient at making skilled movements. These findings show that musical training can enhance brain function [source: Neuroscience Letters, 2000, 278, 189-198]
This article is reprinted with permission of the author from Musica Research Notes, (Volume VII, Issue 2, Spring 2000). For further information, contact MuSICA at www.musica.uci.edu/index.html
I absolutely love playing the piano!
by the piano student of Dr. Kafarova, Kassie Roucco, 10 years old
I absolutely love playing the piano! It makes me feel great when I finish a song, and sometimes perfect it even more. I love surprising people that I can play really good. When I play the piano I always try my best, just like in everything else I do! When I feel that I can really play this song or I really want to play it, I never leave the piano until I can play it perfect. When I make new goals, or old ones, I always try to reach them. Then finally, when I have the song down, I play it in front of my teacher. I like it when she tells me that it was good. Sometimes she says, "We can always make changes". I'm glad she tells me that so I know what I need to work on. Soon enough I will perfect it, and move on to another song. I LOVE playing the piano!