Children get many benefits from music lessons, from creativity to better focus. But two recent studies show one oft-cited benefit - that music study improves intelligence - is a myth.
The notion can largely be traced to one study that was later debunked, said lead author Samuel Mehr of Harvard. In it, researchers found what they called the "Mozart effect": After hearing music, subjects did better on spatial tasks.
While many studies have probed the link between music and cognitive skills, Mehr's team found just five that used randomized trials. Only one showed a positive effect, and it was barely significant.
The team recruited 29 parents and 4-year-old children. After initial vocabulary tests for the children and music aptitude tests for the parents, each was randomly assigned to one of two classes - one for music training, the other for visual arts.
Both groups did comparably on the vocabulary and number-estimation tasks, but children with music training did slightly better at one spatial task; those with visual arts training did better at the other.