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Reviews in the Neurosciences

Editor-in-Chief: Huston, Joseph P.

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Volume 24, Issue 6


Music education and its effect on intellectual abilities in children: a systematic review

Artur C. Jaschke
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, NL-1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Laura H.P. Eggermont
  • Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, NL-1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Henkjan Honing
  • Department of Musicology, the institute for Logic, Language and Computation and the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, NL 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Erik J.A. Scherder
  • Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, NL-1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2013-10-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2013-0023


Far transfer between music education and other cognitive skills, such as academic achievement, has been widely examined. However, the results of studies within similar cognitive domains are found to be inconclusive or contradictory. These differences can be traced back to the analytical methods used, differences in the forms of music education studied and differences in neural activation during the processing of these tasks. In order to gain a better picture of the relationships involved, a literature survey was performed in leading databases, such as PubMed/MedLine, psychINFO, ScienceDirect, Embase, ERIC, ASSIA and Jstor from January 2001 to January 2013. All studies included, concerned the far transfer from music education to other cognitive skills in children aged 4–13 years as compared with controls. These studies were independently selected and their quality was assessed by two authors. This systematic review shows the need to address methodological and analytical questions in greater detail. There is a general need to unify methods used in music education research. Furthermore, the hypothesis that intellectual skills, such as mathematics, reading, writing and intelligence can be divided into sub-functions, needs to be examined as one approach to the problems considered here. When this has been done, detailed analysis of cognitive transfer from music education to other disciplines should become possible.

Keywords: academic achievement; cognitive domain; cognitive functions; music intervention; music transfer


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About the article

Artur C. Jaschke

Artur C. Jaschke has obtained his Bachelor degree in Music (Double Bass and Drums) at Dartington College of Arts (United Kingdom) and Music and Music Cognition at the University of Otago (New Zealand). During this period he developed a strong interest in the neurology of music, which led him to complete his Master’s degree at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (The Netherlands), in Musicology and Music Cognition (thesis title: Controlled Freedom: Cognitive Economy versus Hierarchical Organisation in jazz improvisation). Currently he is researcher clinical Neuromusicology at the VU University Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in the department of Clinical Neuropsychology, specializing in the interrelation of music, executive functions and neural development in clinical and non clinical populations.

Laura H.P. Eggermont

Laura Eggermont’s research focuses on cognition, pain and mobility in older adults with or without cognitive impairment. She finished her thesis concerning ‘Neurorehabilitation in dementia’ in 2007. She worked as a post-doc in Boston and currently works as an assistant professor at the VU University in Amsterdam.

Henkjan Honing

Henkjan Honing (1959) holds a KNAW-Hendrik Muller chair in Music Cognition and is professor of Cognitive and Computational Musicology at both the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He conducts his research under the auspices of the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC), and the University of Amsterdam’s Brain and Cognition (ABC) center. Henkjan Honing is the Distinguished Lorentz Fellow 2013/14, a prize granted by the Lorentz Center for the Sciences and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.

Erik J.A. Scherder

Erik Scherder is head of the department clinical Neuropsychology and full professor at the VU University Amsterdam (the Netherlands). Furthermore he is full professor for Human Movement Sciences at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (the Netherlands). Currently, he is conducting research on pain experience in people with neurodegenerative diseases.

Corresponding author: Artur C. Jaschke, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, NL-1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands, e-mail:

Received: 2013-07-08

Accepted: 2013-09-16

Published Online: 2013-10-30

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, Volume 24, Issue 6, Pages 665–675, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2013-0023.

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