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Unlocking Your Child's Potential: MIT Explains the Surprising Cognitive Benefits of Music vs. Coding

The prevailing narrative in the technology industry regarding education reform emphasises the necessity for every child to acquire coding skills. Proponents argue that such skills are crucial for navigating a world increasingly dominated by computers.


However, a significant gap exists between coding proficiency and the prevalent point-and-click environment of today. In many professional settings, extensive programming knowledge beyond basic tasks like spreadsheet creation is seldom required.


Advocates of the "teach kids to code" movement often justify the domination of computers in schools by claiming it enhances mathematical and linguistic abilities. However, research from MIT conducted in December 2020 challenges this notion. The study suggests that understanding computer code constitutes a distinct skill set, separate from language and mathematics.


In contrast, a study conducted at the University of Zürich in January 2021, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, highlights the cognitive benefits of learning to play a musical instrument. Researchers observed significant structural and functional enhancements in the brains of musicians compared to non-musicians. Specifically, musicians exhibited stronger connectivity in brain regions associated with speech, sound processing, and higher cognitive functions such as memory and executive functions.


Even more compelling is the finding that these enhancements persist regardless of whether the individual continues to practice the instrument. Professor Simon Leipold, a co-author of the study, notes that the timing of musical practice initiation correlates with the strength of these neural connections.

A summary of the research (which involved scanning the brains of both musicians and non-musicians) published in Inverse explains that

"musicians' brains were vastly more structurally and functionally connected than non-musicians, especially in areas of the brain responsible for speech and sound (especially the auditory cortices of both hemispheres). ... The musical group also showed stronger connections from the auditory cortices to other brain areas in the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortex known to be involved in the control of higher cognitive functions like memory, working memory, and executive functions."

In summary, prioritising musical education over coding instruction may yield greater cognitive benefits for children. The evidence suggests that learning a musical instrument enhances brain power and functionality, offering a compelling alternative for parents and teachers seeking to optimise their children's intellectual development.


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