Learn to play the piano. Join your school band or sing in a musical. Take some guitar lessons and start a rock group. If people wonder what you're up to, tell them you're doing something important. You may be making yourself a little bit smarter.
A new study shows that young children who learn to sing or play a musical instrument may gain a slight mental edge over kids who don't take music lessons.
Taking music lessons may help you become a little bit smarter.
The study involved 132 first graders in Canada. The researchers, from the University of Toronto at Mississauga, randomly divided the students into four groups. One group took weekly piano lessons. Another group took singing lessons. The third group went to drama class. And the last group did no extracurricular activities for the entire school year.
All the participants took IQ tests at the beginning and at the end of the first grade. Overall, average scores went up for all groups. But kids who took piano or singing lessons gained more. Their IQ scores went up 7.0 points on average, compared with 4.3 points for kids in the other two groups.
It's a tiny difference, really, and the music students probably won't end up getting higher grades or having greater success later in life.
Still, the results are worth noting, the researchers say. Learning to play music teaches kids how to pay attention and memorize things, and it helps fine-tune coordination and other physical skills. These types of experiences may have positive effects on the developing brains of young people.
So grab a guitar, a trombone, or a violin. At the very least, you'll help fill the world with beautiful sounds. Who can argue with that?—E. Sohn
Bower, Bruce. 2004. Tuning up young minds: Music lessons give kids a small IQ advantage . Science News 165(June 19):389. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040619/fob6.asp  .
Sohn, Emily. 2004. Project music . Science News for Kids (June 2). Available at http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20040602/Feature1.asp  .
For additional information about research linking music lessons and IQ, see www.apa.org/monitor/oct03/lessons.html  (American Psychological Association).