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Practice Makes Perfect

Children who practice their musical instruments may outperform their peers in a number of fields, according to a Harvard-based study. Science Daily reports that the study showed students who have played a musical instrument for three years or more scored higher on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion—skills not normally associated with musical instrument training.

Researchers Gottfried Schlaug and Ellen Winne compared 41 eight- to eleven-year-olds who had studied an instrument to 18 children who had not. Both groups participated in general music classes at school, but the instrumental group received additional private lessons. The instrumental children did better in tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity—skills sharpened by playing an instrument—and surpassed normal students in a vocabulary IQ test and visual pattern completion. The longer the children had studied their instrument, the better they scored on these tests.

Schlaug and Winne said that more studies were necessary to examine the causal relationships between instrument music training and cognitive enhancements. Based on the initial results, though, teachers may think of turning their students on to a musical instrument to improve standardized test scores.

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