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Neuroscientists have been interested in the undeniable impact of music on the human brain for many years. In his book Musicophilia, the noted neurologist Oliver Sacks describes how patients with serious neurological impairments, such as the Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, can respond to music when no other stimuli would reach them. Researchers from SWPS University on the other hand set to investigate the relation of musical training and the development of reading skills and other cognitive abilities in children.

 

rESEARCH PROJECT

Long-Term Musical Training and Reading Ability

Eyetracking study on cognitive functioning of children 6-9 years of age.

Research UnitUNI SWPS english
Grant Amount  116 114 PLN
Funding SourceNCN logo poziom en2

Duration of Research Project: March 2017 – March 2020

 

Neuroscientists have been interested in the undeniable impact of music on the human brain for many years. In his book Musicophilia, the noted neurologist Oliver Sacks describes how patients with serious neurological impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, can respond to music when no other stimuli would reach them. Researchers from SWPS University on the other hand set to investigate the relation of musical training and the development of reading skills and other cognitive abilities in children.

Project Objectives

The aim of the project is to conduct a systematic analysis of the relationship between musical training and the acquisition of reading skills as well as the development of cognitive functioning, namely the working memory and attention control.

Hypothesis and Methodology

A longitudinal study will be carried out in a group of children attending Level 1 music school (N = 80, age 6-9 years old), and in a selected peer group not trained in musical skills (N = 80). Based on previous studies, which have indicated that music training has a positive effect on cognitive development of children, including the process of reading (Kopiez, Galley, 2002), the development of verbal memory (Chan Ho Cheung, 1998), and the development of intelligence (Schellenberg, 2011), two main hypotheses have been formulated.

The first hypothesis poses that musical training, that includes learning to read music, playing instruments, and doing rhythm exercises has a significant impact on the development of reading skills. The development of children from both groups will be measured twice, with the use of eye-tracking device. The measurements will take place after one year and after two years of receiving musical education. The eye-tracking measurement allows for noninvasive registration of eye movements during reading. The recording of the eye-movement will help researchers to observe the reading strategies employed by the children, for example the number of fixations on particular words, the length of eye movements, and the number of returns to the more difficult parts of the text. The researchers anticipate that musical training will contribute to a greater fluency in reading.

The second hypothesis predicts that musical training improves cognitive functioning in the following areas: working memory (specifically, the phonological loop), concentration, and fluid intelligence. Measurements of cognitive abilities will be taken before children begin musical training to control any differences in the base line, and later, after one and two years of education.

We hope that the results of the study will provide new data on the relation between musical training and the development of reading and other cognitive skills and that the collected data will help to formulate recommendations for increasing the number of hours of musical training in the school curriculum.

Agata Rodziewicz,  Principal Investigator

 

Scientific Contribution

This project is an important contribution to the existing body of knowledge on the impact of musical training on child development. Firstly, unlike earlier studies that had examined the changes only in individual cognitive functions, this project will look at differences in a variety of cognitive functions.

Secondly, it is a longitudinal study, with three measurements at annual intervals. This type of research paradigm, which uses a comparison group, allows not only to track the development of the cognitive functions tested in both groups, but also allows to isolate changes resulting form musical training. 

Thirdly, it is worth noting that the project will use eye-tracking technology that allows to track distribution of attention (Duchowski, 2012). Eye-tracking is currently used in a variety of fields that require information on receiving and processing of visual information. Eye-tracking devices provide precise data related to changes in the reading process and concentration. It is the first study of this type in Poland.

Practical Application of Results

The researchers hope that showing a relationship between musical training and the development of reading skills will lead to the creation of new music education programs for children who have reading difficulties. Additionally, the scientific data obtained in the study will help to formulate recommendations for increasing the number of hours of musical training, in the elementary school curriculum.

The results will be published in national and international journals.

Researchers

258 Agata Rodziewicz

 

Agata Rodziewicz, M.A.

Principal Investigator
psychologist, musician. Interested in psychology of music and cognitive psychology

258 izabela krejtz

 Associate Professor

Izabela Krejtz

Research Supervisor
cognitive psychologist

 

 

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