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You are here: Auditory Development Lab > Publications > Please don’t stop the music: A meta-analysis of the cognitive and academic benefits of instrumental musical training in childhood and adolescence

R Román-Caballero, R Vadillo, LJ Trainor, and J Lupiáñez (2022)

Please don’t stop the music: A meta-analysis of the cognitive and academic benefits of instrumental musical training in childhood and adolescence

Educational Research Review, 35(100436).

An extensive literature has investigated the impact of musical training on cognitive skills and academic achievement in children and adolescents. However, most of the studies have relied on cross-sectional designs, which makes it impossible to elucidate whether the observed differences are a consequence of the engagement in musical activities. Previous meta-analyses with longitudinal studies have also found inconsistent results, possibly due to their reliance on vague definitions of musical training. In addition, more evidence has appeared in recent years. The current meta-analysis investigates the impact of early programs that involve learning to play musical instruments on cognitive skills and academic achievement, as previous meta-analyses have not focused on this form of musical training. Following a systematic search, 34 independent samples of children and adolescents were included, with a total of 176 effect sizes and 5998 participants. All the studies had pre-post designs and, at least, one control group. Overall, we found a small but significant benefit (g‾Δ = 0.26) with short-term programs, regardless of whether they were randomized or not. In addition, a small advantage at baseline was observed in studies with self-selection (g‾pre = 0.28), indicating that participants who had the opportunity to select the activity consistently showed a slightly superior performance prior to the beginning of the intervention. Our findings support a nature and nurture approach to the relationship between instrumental training and cognitive skills. Nevertheless, evidence from well-conducted studies is still scarce and more studies are necessary to reach firmer conclusions.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2022.100436

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