Quick! Sign your children up for weekly piano or voice lessons, and in the space of just nine months their IQs may very well be higher.
Researchers from the University of Toronto have determined that this is all it takes for a child's IQ to rise nearly three points, compared to their non-musical friends, reports HealthDayNews. How? Music gives the brain a workout that is useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence, and other intellectual pursuits.
"With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved--such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords--the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect," study author E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, told HealthDayNews.
Previous research 10 years ago at the University of Wisconsin showed that just listening to Mozart could trigger a temporary increase in spatial intelligence, so it's not uncommon for students to capitalize on this by slipping a Mozart symphony in their CD players just before an SAT exam. HealthDayNews notes that even though the so-called "Mozart Effect" has been difficult to replicate in subsequent studies, the idea that musical training might raise IQ has intrigued the scientific community.
The study: Twelve Toronto area children, all of whom were 6 years old at the start of the study and were about to enter first grade, were given free weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Children this young have brains that are still developing and so have a greater ability to change and adapt to environmental stimuli; however, they are old enough at 6 to participate in rigorous musical lessons. In addition, a third group of 6-year-olds was given free training in weekly drama classes. A fourth group received no classes during the study period. Before any classes were given, all the children were tested using the full Weschler intelligence test that assesses intellectual function in 10 areas.
The results: The children returned to the university lab the summer between first and second grade and were retested. At that time, all the children--even those who were not taking music lessons--had an IQ increase of at least 4.3 points on average, which is a consequence of going to school. Children who took drama lessons scored no higher than those who took no lessons at all. But the kids who took music lessons had slightly larger increases in IQ than the control groups, averaging 7 points over their score a year earlier, and 2.7 points higher than the children who did not take music lessons.
HealthDayNews notes that the increase in IQ is considered small but significant and was evident across the broad spectrum of intelligence measured by the Weschler test. The same IQ boost is not likely to benefit adults who take music lessons.
The study findings have been published in journal Psychological Science.