“Musicians Are Probably Smarter Than The Rest Of Us”

The title of a recently published piece.  I’m generally healthily skeptical of the claims found in media reporting of scientific studies and this is no exception.  But I think the obvious implications have to do with the role of music education (and the subsequent cutting of funding for it) and how much any nation should value, if true, the brain strengthening side-effects of continuous and long-term music study.

Anyway, here is the piece:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/20/music-intelligence_n_904124.html

And here are the relevant bullet points:

Methods

— Seventy healthy participants, aged between 60 and 83, were divided into three groups, based on their degree of involvement in musical activities, over their lifetimes.
— 
The three groups were similar in average age, education, handedness, sex ratio, and physical exercise habits.
— The first group, namely the non-musicians, never received any formal musical training. The second group, the low activity musicians, had one to nine years of training. The third, the high activity musicians, trained for more than 10 years and played regularly afterward.
— All were tested for brain strengths such as memory, attention, and language prowess, using standardized tests. Their mastery on the use of language, ability to remember, and ability to express oneself were tested.

Results

— Verbal intellectual ability and learning, as well as recall of verbal information, were found to be similar across the three groups.
— The high activity musicians were significantly better at performing tasks based on visual inputs.
— Although language prowess seemed to be similar across the groups, the high activity musicians’ memory for words was significantly better than that of non-musicians.
— The age at which musical training started affected visual memory, while the number of years of training affected non-verbal memory.

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