A research team from Canada conducted the study concerning the effectiveness of brain training in children.
Moreno et al (2011) performed a prospective trial that involved 48 pre-school children. The participants composed two experimental groups of equal size, age, and mother’s education. Both groups were trained by means of intensive (1 hour a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks) teaching computer programs. The groups differed in training: the music curriculum was based on rhythm, melody, voice, and basic musical concepts, while the visual art consisted of visuo-spatial skills (shape, color, perspective). The intelligence performance was tested with a Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-III test, an intelligence test designed for children between 2 and 7 years old. Every child was tested twice: before and after the training. Besides, the children underwent event-related potentials recordings on their electro-encephalograms during a go/no-go trial: the participants had to press a key for a proper picture of given shape and color appear on the screen.
Consequently, the study used experimental method of exploration. Research assistants, who performed individual tests, did not know about training module of the particular child, therefore, this was a blind study. The research is prospective, and this adds strength to its results. The manuscript gives a profound literature review on the problem of brain plasticity, interaction between cognitive activities and neuroeducation suggesting elements of literature search. Quantitative analysis (analysis of variance mathematical model) of obtained results is applied to detect statistically significant changes.
This study concludes 90% of children in the music group, but not visual group, exhibits enhanced performance of their verbal intelligence, and these improvements correlate well with changes in brain plasticity according to executive task. The finding suggests music processing shares verbal mechanisms and brain structures, which may open a new path for education and rehabilitation.
The contributors in their review mention visual art training may have implications on the learning, but according to the current study, there is no strict relation of verbal/spatial skills to visual training. The authors assume this pattern might necessitate a longer time course.
The main weaknesses of the research are the cohort size, which is to be enlarged in the future studies, and lack of longitudinal observations. The positive results were detected within a few weeks after the training program; therefore, long-term effects must be investigated. Moreover, present social environment, somatic encumbrances, overall neurological status, and perinatal history of the child might be considered.
The fact that there is a clear correlation between music training and short-term verbal intelligence performance is objective. The interpretation of this fact lies in the authors’ opinion that sharing different brain resources is the appropriate explanation to the finding. The researchers’ expectations to apply the discovery into medical practice need to be supported yet.
Overall, I am impressed by this clearly done experimental behavioral study. It seems this is a substantial contribution to the neuroscience. However, further investigations and long-term clinical trials must be held before trusty conclusions can be derived.