Title: “Effects of a School-Based Instrumental Music Program on Verbal and Visual Memory in Primary School Children: A Longitudinal Study”

Author(s): Ingo Roden, Gunter Kreutz, and Stephan Bongard

Publisher: Frontiers in Psychology

Year: 2012

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3528082/

Topics: arts education, music, cognitive benefits

Methods: quasi-experimental longitudinal study

What it says: Twenty-five German primary-school students taking weekly 45-minute instrumental training lessons for 18 months showed increased verbal memory compared to 25 students receiving extended training in the natural sciences and 23 students receiving no intervention, even after controlling for age, IQ and socioeconomic status. No such benefits were observed for visual memory skills. Both findings are consistent with previous research, although there has been disagreement in prior work on the connection between music and visual memory.

What I think about it: Overall, the study seems solid, though it treads relatively familiar ground. The treatment groups were not randomized, so there is a possibility that some unobserved variable is accounting for the improvements in verbal memory rather than the exposure to music lessons. However, the study design appears to anticipate all of the most obvious potential objections of this nature. The relatively small sample size of 73 students is notable, but not a major concern.

What it all means: There seems to be a strong evidence base suggesting that participating in music training has benefits for verbal memory, and this study adds to it. On the other hand, claims that music training is connected to visual memory are weakened by this study.