Musical training can improve working memory in kids

According to the study, musically trained children have greater activation in brain regions related to attention control and executive functions.

By   |  Published: 8th Oct 2020  4:15 pmUpdated: 8th Oct 2020  4:27 pm

New York: If you want your kids to be more intelligent and sharper, read on. Neuroscientists have found new evidence that learning to play an instrument may be good for the brain.

According to the study, musically trained children have greater activation in brain regions related to attention control and executive functions, known to be associated with improved reading, higher resilience, greater creativity, and a better quality of life.

“Our most important finding is that two different mechanisms seem to underlie the better performance of musically trained children in the attention and working memory (WM) task,” said study author Leonie Kausel from Pontifical Catholic University in Chile.

“One that supports more domain-general attention mechanisms and another that supports more domain-specific auditory encoding mechanisms,” Kausel added.

Here, “domain” refers to how sensorial modalities — types of senses such as heat, sound, or light — are encoded by the brain, while domain-specific means that only one vs. more than one sensorial modality is processed, the team explained.

Both mechanisms seem to have improved functions in musically trained children.

For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research team tested the attention and working memory of 40 Chilean children between 10-13 years of age.

Twenty played an instrument, had had at least two years of lessons, practised at least 2 hours a week and regularly played in an orchestra or ensemble.

Twenty control children, recruited from public schools in Santiago, had had no musical training other than in the school curriculum.

Their attention and working memory were assessed through the previously developed and validated “bimodal (auditory/visual) attention and working memory (WM) task”.

During this task, the research team monitored the brain activity of the children with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), detecting small changes in blood flow within the brain.

There was no difference between the two groups in reaction time. However, musically trained children did significantly better on the memory task.

The research team suspect music training increases the functional activity of these brain networks.

“The next step of the project is to establish the causality of the mechanisms we found for improving attention and working memory,” the study authors wrote.