The benefits of including structured music lessons in the curriculum

A Dutch study published in the Journal of Neuroscience finds that children who participate in structured music lessons have stronger cognitive skills and  (via Science Daily).

The study looked at nearly 150 children across multiple Dutch schools that delivered arts education including a structured music programme. The programme was devised by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands in conjunction with an expert centre for arts education.  The school children  were randomized across four groups: two music intervention groups, one active visual arts group, and a no arts control group.

The researchers followed up the children two and a half years later, assessing their academic attainment and testing their cognitive skills, including their memory and planning skills.  The children who participated in the structured classes outperformed their peers who did not, with significant cognitive improvements. The children who accessed visual arts classes also showed significantly improved visual and spatial short-term memory compared to students who had not received any supplementary lessons.


Background: Research on the effects of music education on cognitive abilities has generated increasing interest across the scientific community. Nonetheless, longitudinal studies investigating the effects of structured music education on cognitive sub-functions are still rare. Prime candidates for investigating a relationship between academic achievement and music education appear to be executive functions such as planning, working memory, and inhibition.

Methods: One hundred and forty-seven primary school children, Mage = 6.4 years, SD = 0.65 were followed for 2.5 years. Participants were randomized into four groups: two music intervention groups, one active visual arts group, and a no arts control group. Neuropsychological tests assessed verbal intelligence and executive functions. Additionally, a national pupil monitor provided data on academic performance.

Results: Children in the visual arts group perform better on visuospatial memory tasks as compared to the three other conditions. However, the test scores on inhibition, planning and verbal intelligence increased significantly in the two music groups over time as compared to the visual art and no arts controls. Mediation analysis with executive functions and verbal IQ as mediator for academic performance have shown a possible far transfer effect from executive sub-function to academic performance scores.

Discussion: The present results indicate a positive influence of long-term music education on cognitive abilities such as inhibition and planning. Of note, following a two-and-a-half year long visual arts program significantly improves scores on a visuospatial memory task. All results combined, this study supports a far transfer effect from music education to academic achievement mediated by executive sub-functions.


Full reference:
Jaschke, A.C, Henkjan, H.,   Scherder, E. J. A. | 2018  |  Longitudinal Analysis of Music Education on Executive Functions in Primary School Children | Frontiers in Neuroscience | Vol. 12 | DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00103
The full article may be read and downloaded from Frontiers in Neuroscience here 


Videos entertain young children but they do not learn from them, finds study of Indian children

A new study shows that although young children are interested in watching videos and may engage by pressing buttons they do not learn from them. The children were studied at four ages: 6, 12, 18 and 24 months old (via Science Direct).

The study in India assessed 55 children at 6 months old, they were then followed up every six months. The researchers observed the children’s skill in interacting with touch screens and their recognition of people in videos, they also made a note of the videos that appealed to them the most.

At 6 months of age the children were enjoying listening to music and by a year were watching the YouTube clips. They were also able to recognise their parents at 12 months and themselves (at 2 years old).  The investigators conclude that while the clips were entertaining for the children they did not  learn anything from the videos.

The full news item is available at Science Daily

The full journal article is published in Acta Paediatrica, the abstract can be read at Wiley 

Full reference:
Yadav, S., Chakraborty, P.,  Mittal, P., & Arora, U . | 2018  | Children aged 6-24 months like to watch YouTube videos but could not learn anything from them  | Acta Paediatrica  |  DOI: 10.1111/apa.14291

The full article is available for Rotherham NHS staff to request here 


Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research | BMC Public Health | Story via ScienceDaily


Researchers at the University of Essex and UCL found an association between increased time spent on social media in early adolescence (age 10) and reduced wellbeing in later adolescence (age 10-15) — but only among girls.

The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study — a large national survey which interviews all members of a household annually, from 2009 — 2015. A total of 9,859 UK adolescents aged 10 to 15 years completed questions on how many hours they spent interacting on social media sites on a typical school day.

The authors found that adolescent girls used social media more than boys and social media interaction increased with age for both boys and girls. At age 13, about a half of girls were interacting on social media for more than 1 hour per day, compared to just one third of boys. By age 15, both genders increased their social media use but girls continued to use social media more than boys, with 59% of girls and 46% of boys interacting on social media for one or more hours per day.

Wellbeing appeared to decline throughout adolescence in both boys and girls, as reflected in scores for happiness and other aspects of wellbeing, although findings indicated that girls experienced more negative aspects of wellbeing.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Cara L. Booker, Yvonne J. Kelly, Amanda Sacker | Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK | BMC Public Health | 2018

A child’s reduction in cognitive skills such as self -restraint is an indicator of future tendencies towards aggression finds German study

Rohlf, H. L. , Holl, A. K.,  Kirsch, F ., Krahé, B .,  & Elsner, B| Longitudinal Links between Executive Function, Anger, and Aggression in Middle ChildhoodFrontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience | DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00027

New research from Germany indicates that young pupils in primary schools with reduced cognitive skills for planning and self-restraint are more likely to show increased aggression in middle childhood. The study looked at the relationship between aggression and executive function which is a measure of their cognitive skills that enable individuals to control their behaviour to achieve goals.  (via Science Daily)

anger-1007186_1280While previous studies have shown that antisocial behavior is related to lower executive function, the link between childhood executive function and aggression over time is under researched . Equally, researchers do not yet understand the relationships between executive function, specific types of aggression and other contributing factors, such as how easily someone becomes angry. 

Lead researcher Helena Helena Rohlf and her fellow researchers tested German primary school pupils aged between 6 and 11 years old at three time points: the start of the study, around a year later and about 3 years later. The children were assessed using behavioral tasks to reveal different aspects of their executive function, including memory, planning abilities and self-restraint. The pupil’s teachers were also asked to record their tendency towards different types of aggression: physical aggression, relational aggression (such as excluding others), reactive aggression (reaction to provocation), and proactive aggression (aggression in “cold blood” without provocation). The children’s parents were surveyed about their child’s tendencies towards aggression.

They found a correlation between a greater the number of deficits children displayed at the beginning of the project and higher aggression at one and three years later.  Rohlf and her colleagues also found that an increased tendency for anger in children with reduced executive function may partly explain their increased aggression in later years.   Deficits in executive function were related to increased reactive aggression over time, but not proactive aggression.

Rohlf said: “this ties in with the idea of proactive aggression as ‘cold-blooded’, planned aggression.” “Executive function allows children to behave in a planned and deliberate fashion, which is characteristic of proactive aggression.”

Another significant finding was that executive function had similar effects on aggression in girls and boys. “We found that although aggressive behavior was more common among boys, the links between executive function, anger, and aggression seem to be similar for girls and boys,” said Rohlf.

The results suggest that training programs that help children to increase their executive function, and manage their anger, could reduce their aggression.

The full journal article can be read at Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience 

Effectiveness of school-based mental health services

Broad evidence now supports the potential of school-based services delivered by teachers and other school-based professionals to help reduce mental health problems in elementary-aged children | Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry | via ScienceDaily


Teachers and other school-based professionals can help reduce children’s mental health problems in elementary-aged children, reports a study published in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

The findings are based on a meta-analysis of 43 controlled trials that collectively had almost 50,000 elementary-aged children participate in school-based mental health services. The researchers examined the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health services, as well as the relative effectiveness of various school-based intervention models that differed according to treatment target, format, and intensity.

In addition to supporting the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health care, follow-up analyses revealed that school-based services targeting child behavior problems were particularly effective, relative to services targeting child attention problems, mood and anxiety problems, or substance use. Moreover, treatments that were implemented multiple times per week were more than twice as effective as treatments that were only implemented on a weekly (or less) basis.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Sanchez, A. L. et al. | The Effectiveness of School-Based Mental Health Services for Elementary-Aged Children: A Meta-Analysis |  Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry | 2018; 57 (3): 153

Review of children and young people’s mental health services

This report describes the findings of our independent review of the system of services that support children and young people’s mental health | Care Quality Commission (CQC)

This CQC report indicates that many children and young people experiencing mental health problems don’t get the kind of care they deserve; the system is complicated, with no easy or clear way to get help or support.

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The report makes a number of recommendations to organisations responsible for making sure that the problems with mental health services are dealt with, including:

  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should make sure there is joint action across government to make children and young people’s mental health a national priority, working with ministers in health, social care, education, housing and local government
  • Local organisations must work together to deliver a clear ‘local offer’ of the care and support available to children and young people
  • Government, employers and schools should make sure that everyone that works, volunteers or cares for children and young people are trained to encourage good mental health and offer basic mental health support
  • Ofsted should look at what schools are doing to support children and young people’s mental health when they inspect

Full report: Are we listening? A review of children and young people’s mental health services

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