The influence of music practice during primary school on congitive performance. A cross-sectional study investigating the correlation of music practice and cognitive performance.


  • Jan Knooren



In the past decades much research has been performed to investigate the influence of music practice on cognitive performance. However, most of these studies have been performed in laboratory settings or in relative small experiments. The present cross-sectional survey investigates the correlation between musical practice during childhood and cognitive performance in a large sample. Primary schools (N=33) co-operated in this study and 860 students received the questionnaire (appendix 1). The parents of these students were asked to complete the questionnaire (appendix 2). Within two weeks 366 questionnaires were returned. The response rate is 44.6%. Cognitive performance was measured with the CITO-eindtoets-score (a national assessment for final year primary school students). Extra-curricular practice of music during the time of primary school led to a significant higher CITO-eindtoets-score for the students that had musical training during the time of primary school (p = .002). After adding socio-economic status to the model the effect of musical practice on CITO-eindtoets-score was still significant (p = .023). There was on interaction of musical practice and socioeconomic status.


Draper, T., & Gayle, C. (1987). An analysis of historical reasons for teaching music to your children. In J. C. Perry, I. W. Perry, & T. W. Draper (Eds.), Music and child development (pp. 194–205). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Earhart, W. (1920). The value of applied music as a school subject. In K. Gehrkens (Ed.), Papers and Proceedings of the Music Teachers National Association Forty-First Annual Meeting (pp. 163–170). Hartford, CT: Music Teacher National Association.

Bilhartz, T. D., Bruhn, R. A., & Olson, J. E. (1999). The Effect of Early Music Training on Child Cognitive Development. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/S0193-3973(99)00033-7]. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20(4), 615-636.

Crncec, R., Wilson, S. J., & Prior, M. (2006). The Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music to Children: Facts and fiction. Educational Psychology, 26(4), 579-594.

Gromko, J. E. (2005). The Effect of Music Instruction on Phonemic Awareness in Beginning Readers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 53(3), 199-209.

Hetland, L. (2000). Learning to Make Music Enhances Spatial Reasoning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 179-238.

Hetland, L. (2001). The relationship between music and spatial processes: A metaanalysis. ProQuest Information & Learning, US.

Hyde, K. L., Lerch, J., Norton, A., Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Evans, A. C., et al. (2009). Musical training shapes structural brain development. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(10), 3019-3025.

Jones, C. T. (2009). Balancing the scales of music: A quantitative study of music education and academic achievement in a Southeastern State public school district. ProQuest Information & Learning, US.

Lappe, C., Herholz, S. C., Trainor, L. J., & Pantev, C. (2008). Cortical plasticity induced by short-term unimodal and multimodal musical training. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28(39), 9632-9639.

Leng, X., Shaw, G. L., & Wright, E. L. (1990). Coding of musical structure and the trion model of cortex. Music Perception, 8(1), 49-62.

McLeod, P., Plunkett, K., & Rolls, E., T. (2007). Introduction to Connectionist Moddeling of Cognitive Processes. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Moreno, S., Marques, C., Santos, A., Santos, M., Castro, S. o. L. s., & Besson, M. (2009). Musical training influences linguistic abilities in 8-year-old children: More evidence for brain plasticity. Cerebral Cortex, 19(3), 712-723.

Patston, L. L. M., Kirk, I. J., Rolfe, M. H. S., Corballis, M. C., & Tippett, L. J. (2007). The unusual symmetry of musicians: Musicians have equilateral interhemispheric transfer for visual information. Neuropsychologia, 45(9), 2059-2065.

Piro, J. M., & Ortiz, C. (2009). The effect of piano lessons on the vocabulary and verbal sequencing skills of primaty grade students. [doi: DOI: 10.1177/0305735608097248]. Psychology of Music, 37(3), 23.

Rauscher, F. H. (2002). Mozart and the mind: Factual and fictional effects of musical enrichment. In J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. (pp. 267-278). San Diego, CA US: Academic Press.

Rauscher, F. H., & LeMieux, M. T. (2003). Piano, rhythm, and singing instruction improve different aspects of spatial-temporal reasoning in Head Start children. [Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York].

Schellenberg, E. G. (2001). Music and nonmusical abilities. In R. J. Zatorre & I. Peretz (Eds.), The biological foundations of music. (pp. 355-371). New York, NY US: New York Academy of Sciences.

Schellenberg, E. G. (2004). Music Lessons Enhance IQ. Psychological Science, 15(8), 511-514.

Schellenberg, E. G. (2006). Long-term positive associations between music lessons and IQ. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(2), 457-468.

Schellenberg, E. G. (2007). Exposure to music and cognitive performance: Tests of children and adults. Psychology of Music, 35(1), 5-19.

Schlaug, G., Jäncke, L., Huang, Y., & Staiger, J. F. (1995). Increased corpus callosum size in musicians. Neuropsychologia, 33(8), 1047-1055.

Southgate, D. E., & Roscigno, V. J. (2009). The Impact of Music on Childhood and Adolescent Achievement. [Article]. Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 90(1), 4-21.

Standley, J. M. (2008). Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read? Evidence of a Meta-Analysis Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, November 2008(27), 15.