this article provides an overview of our research , including studies yet unpublished, on the effects of music on cognition. Music instruction can enhance children's spatial-temporal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and phonemic awareness. Longitudinal studies of middle-income and economically disadvantaged preschoolers reveal that children who receive music instruction prior to age 7 show improved performance on spatial-temporal and numerical reasoning tasks compared to children in control groups—effects that persist for two years after the intervention ends. Three additional studies suggest that teacher gender may influence these transfer effects in children. Our studies also show improved perceptual discrimination as a function of music training: adult string players have lower than average pitch discrimination thresholds, whereas adult percussionists have lower than average temporal discrimination thresholds. These effects are strongest for musicians who begin their training before age 7. Related to these improvements in perceptual discrimination, children provided with violin instruction perform better than controls on tasks measuring phonemic awareness, a skill that correlates strongly with pitch discrimination and is related to reading acquisition.
Steele (2003) raised several concerns regarding Rauscher, Robinson, and Jens’ (1998) study that found improved maze running following early music exposure in rats. Steele’s primary criticisms were that the rats in the Rauscher et al. study were only able to hear 31% of the notes and that a selection bias resulting in preexisting differences between groups could account for the disparity in their performance. Here we provide evidence that the rats heard a substantially higher percentage of notes than Steele reported and that there were no preexisting differences between groups. A recent replication is discussed that shows a neurophysiological basis for a Mozart effect in rats.