. . . The researchers speculate that musicians learn to think in terms of spatial relationships “because notes are coded in terms of their spatial positions.” This makes intuitive sense. A musician, like an athlete, instinctively learns to navigate through space: one reads notes on a staff, while another masters the parameters of a tennis court or football field.
While this one small study is hardly conclusive, it provides more evidence of the drawbacks of a basics-only approach to education. Such an approach ignores the ways important mental processes are enhanced by learning that occurs outside the core curriculum. This research suggests, in the words of Pietsch and Jansen, that “playing an instrument or a sport for many years has an enhancing effect on a specific cognitive task” — one that confers real-world benefits.