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Piano lessons boost kids’ language skills

WASHINGTON – Chinese and American scientists suggested piano lessons had a positive effect on kindergartners’ ability to distinguish different pitches, which translated into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words.

However, the piano lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory, according to the study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The children didn’t differ in the more broad cognitive measures, but they did show some improvements in word discrimination, particularly for consonants. The piano group showed the best improvement there,” said Robert Desimone, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the paper.

The study, performed in Beijing, suggested that musical training is at least as beneficial in improving language skills, and possibly more beneficial, than offering children extra reading lessons.