Transfer effects of a musical training on the cognitive and reading development of preschoolers


Since antiquity, music has been thought of as having a beneficial effect on cognitive development. Numerous studies provide evidence that there is a positive relationship between musical training and cognitive abilities (Schellenberg & Weiss, 2013) and in particular for reading abilities (Butzlaff, 2000). However, correlational studies do not allow for causal inference. It thus remains unclear whether a greater amount of musical training leads to a positive cognitive development, or whether, for example, gifted children attend music lessons more frequently than other children.

Welche Transfereffekte haben musikalische und kuenstlerische Foerderung auf die
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Project MusiCo aims to investigate the short and long term effects of musical training on language and reading development of five-year-old preschoolers. We will compare three groups. The first group will receive twice a week a musical training taking place at their kindergarten for several months. The second group will attend a language training over the same time period. The third group will receive neither musical nor language training. It will serve as a comparison group in which the children’s language and reading abilities develop without further institutional support.

Before the start of lessons, all three groups will take part in experiments that measure their current cognitive and language development. Shortly after the lessons have ended, their stage of development will be tested again. By comparing these groups, we aim to assess the positive effect of the musical training on musical abilities, but also on language and cognition. Furthermore, as we expect long term effects on reading development, all children will subsequently take part in reading experiments during the first grade.

The project was launched in January 2015.

The project “Transfer effects of a musical training on the cognitive and reading development of preschoolers (MusiCo)” is part of the “Research Fund Cultural Education. Studies on the effects of cultural education” – a project of the Council for Cultural Education supported by Stiftung Mercator.


For questions or comments concerning MusiCo please contact

Lorenz Grolig
grolig [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de