New Study Reports Music Lessons Improve Language Learning Skills

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Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reveled that piano lessons to kindergartners enhances their ability to learn new languages.

The study was performed in Beijing to establish a relationship between music and general cognitive ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between words. The research led by Robert Desimone, director of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research consisted of 74 children divided into three groups. One group learnt piano lessons for 45-minute, three times a week. The second group spent the same amount of time in extra reading instruction and the third group got none of the privileges. All the children spoke mandarin and were 4-5 years of age.

The researchers tested the children’s ability to discriminate between words based on differences in vowels, consonants, or tone after six months. Children who learnt piano lessons efficiently recognized the difference in words that differ by one consonant. Both the children in piano and extra reading groups performed better with words of vowel differences than those who received neither interventions. The researchers measured the brain activity of the children using electroencephalography (EEG). The brains of children with piano lessons showed greater responses when they listened to series of tones of different pitch. High sensitivity to pitch differences due to the influence of music thus, helped the children to better distinguish different words. However, in IQ tests of attention and working memory, none of the children depicted improvement in overall cognitive function. The report was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on June 25, 2018.

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