The studies conducted by Samuel Mehr, a Harvard Graduate School of Education doctoral student working in the lab of Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke, found no effect of music training on the intelligence of young children.
Though dozens of studies have explored whether and how music and cognitive skills might be connected, when Mehr and colleagues reviewed the literature they found just five studies that used randomized trials, the gold standard for determining causal effects of educational interventions on child development.
Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously positive effect, and it was so small - just a 2.7 point increase in IQ after a year of music lessons - that it was barely enough to be statistically significant.
To explore the connection between music and cognition, Mehr and colleagues recruited 29 parents and four-year-old children from the Cambridge area. After initial vocabulary tests for the children and music aptitude tests for the parents, each were randomly assigned to one of two classes - one where they would receive music training, or another that focused on visual arts.
The study's results, however, showed no evidence for cognitive benefits of music training.
The studies were published in journal PLOS ONE.