The study of music seems to have helped accelerate cognitive development, and particularly the auditory and speech and language-processing abilities, of a group of young children in Los Angeles. The students are taught using an approach based on El Sistema, developed in Venezuela. They receive free instruments and intensive, regular training from adult musicians. To gauge their brain development the students are occasionally monitored with MRIs, EEGs, and other activities.
Research two years into the study revealed the students in the music group were more able to identify differences in musical pitch than other students. The brain scans also showed that these students had more-developed auditory pathways than their peers. Development in auditory processing also affects students’ ability to process speech and language, which means it could have an impact on students’ academic progress as well as musical abilities.
Most schools have experienced cuts in arts and music programs in recent decades. Advocates have been highlighting the inequitable distribution of arts programs in schools. (Many schools serving the most disadvantaged students don’t have robust arts programs.) Studies like this bolster claims that music education, especially where many students are living in poverty, could benefit children’s cognitive development.