Music and Intelligence

Most people enjoy listening to music, and for some it is a vital part of their everyday lives. However, apart from its myriad of social and cultural functions, music can also be of benefit to personal development…

New Kids On The Rock

A Canadian report published in the journal Psychological Science studied the effects of a four-week music course on a group of 4-6 year old children. The music course “included training in rhythm, pitch, melody, voice and basic musical concepts.”

Another group was presented with a similarly structured course in visual arts, which covered “the development of visuo-spatial skills relating to concepts such as shape, color, line, dimension, and perspective.”

After the courses, 90% of the music group showed a markedly raised level of verbal ability, indicating to researchers that the music had a ‘transfer effect’ which conferred a ‘rapid transfer of cognitive benefits’.

While it’s not the case that any child can be transformed into a prodigy through intensive music training, there is clearly great benefit to be derived from exposure to music, and this impact can be even greater during such formative years. However, as occupational therapists well know, the positive influence of music (both passive and active) can greatly enhance personal development at all stages of life, whatever your initial ability levels might be.

Rhythm and Melody

Another study from the Journal of Neuroscience showed that people who performed better in rhythm tests also demonstrated enhanced neural response to speech sounds.

There seems to be a strong connection between rhythmic ability and ability across a variety of other areas, including general intelligence. Perhaps there is a neural ‘noise floor’ in the brain which can disrupt both rhythm and thought processes – much in the same way that jitter or low bit depth cause artefacts in audio recordings. The lower the noise floor, the cleaner the signal, leading to a more efficient and effective system…


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