DataSheet1.docx

Measuring musical abilities in childhood can be challenging. When music training and maturation occur simultaneously, it is difficult to separate the effects of specific experience from age-based changes in cognitive and motor abilities. The goal of this study was to develop age-equivalent scores for two measures of musical ability that could be reliably used with school-aged children (7–13) with and without musical training. The children's Rhythm Synchronization Task (c-RST) and the children's Melody Discrimination Task (c-MDT) were adapted from adult tasks developed and used in our laboratories. The c-RST is a motor task in which children listen and then try to synchronize their taps with the notes of a woodblock rhythm while it plays twice in a row. The c-MDT is a perceptual task in which the child listens to two melodies and decides if the second was the same or different. We administered these tasks to 213 children in music camps (musicians, n = 130) and science camps (non-musicians, n = 83). We also measured children's paced tapping, non-paced tapping, and phonemic discrimination as baseline motor and auditory abilities We estimated internal-consistency reliability for both tasks, and compared children's performance to results from studies with adults. As expected, musically trained children outperformed those without music lessons, scores decreased as difficulty increased, and older children performed the best. Using non-musicians as a reference group, we generated a set of age-based z-scores, and used them to predict task performance with additional years of training. Years of lessons significantly predicted performance on both tasks, over and above the effect of age. We also assessed the relation between musician's scores on music tasks, baseline tasks, auditory working memory, and non-verbal reasoning. Unexpectedly, musician children outperformed non-musicians in two of three baseline tasks. The c-RST and c-MDT fill an important need for researchers interested in evaluating the impact of musical training in longitudinal studies, those interested in comparing the efficacy of different training methods, and for those assessing the impact of training on non-musical cognitive abilities such as language processing.