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Providing the opportunity for arts learning is an important aspect of education. For years the Dana Foundation as well as other groups have been studing the effects of the arts on learning and cognitve skills of children. Scientists have grappled with the question of why arts training has been associated with higher academic performance. In 2004, the Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium brought together cognitive neuroscientists from seven universities across the United States to address the question.
Here is a summary of what the group has learned:
1. An interest in a performing art leads to a high state of motivation that produces the sustained attention necenssary to improve performance and the training of attention that leads to improvement in other domains of cognition.
2. Genetic studies have begun to yield candidate genes that may help explain individual differences in interest in the arts.
3. Specific links exist between high levels of music training and the ability to manipulate information in both working and long-term memory; these links extend beyond the domain of music training.
4. In children, there appear to be specific links between the practice of music and skills in geometrical representation, though not in other forms of numerical representation.
5. Correlations exist between music training and both reading acquisition and sequence learning. One of the central predictors of early literacy, phonological awareness, is correlated with both music training and the development of a specific brain pathway.
6. Training in acting appears to lead to memory improvement through the learning of general skills for manipulating semantic information.
7. Adult self-reported interest in aesthetics is related to a temperamental factor of openness, which in turn is influenced by dopamine-related genes.
8. Learning to dance by effective observation is closely related to learning by physical practice, both in the level of achievement and also the neural substrates that support the organization of complex actions. Effective observational learning may transfer to other cognitive skills.
The arts in education continues to maintain a position of investigation and importance. Integration of the arts into all areas of study have shown to improve cognitive development. Lets all work togethe to keep the arts alive in our schools.