Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood Is Associated With Enhanced Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning

PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3566. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003566. Epub 2008 Oct 29.


Background: In this study we investigated the association between instrumental music training in childhood and outcomes closely related to music training as well as those more distantly related.

Methodology/principal findings: Children who received at least three years (M = 4.6 years) of instrumental music training outperformed their control counterparts on two outcomes closely related to music (auditory discrimination abilities and fine motor skills) and on two outcomes distantly related to music (vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills). Duration of training also predicted these outcomes. Contrary to previous research, instrumental music training was not associated with heightened spatial skills, phonemic awareness, or mathematical abilities.

Conclusions/significance: While these results are correlational only, the strong predictive effect of training duration suggests that instrumental music training may enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning. Alternative explanations for these results are discussed.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Music* / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*
  • Vocabulary