The first links between music expertise and advantages in long-term memory have been highlighted in a new study.
Psychology researchers at University of Texas used electroencephalography (EEG) technology to measure electrical activity of neurons in the brains of 14 musicians and 15 non-musicians and noted processing differences in the frontal and parietal lobe responses.
Researcher Heekyeong Park said that musically trained people are known to process linguistic materials a split second faster than those without training, and previous research also has shown musicians have advantages in working memory.
Park added that what they wanted to know is whether there are differences between pictorial and verbal tasks and whether any advantages extend to long-term memory and if proven, those advantages could represent an intervention option to explore for people with cognitive challenges.
The musicians, all of whom had been playing classical music for more than 15 years, outperformed non-musicians in EEG-measured neural responses on the working memory tasks, but, when long-term memory was tested, the enhanced sensitivity was only found in memory for pictures.
The study has not explored why the advantages might develop, but Park said that it is possible professional musicians become more adept at taking in and processing a host of pictorial cues as they navigate musical scores.
Park concluded that their work is adding evidence that music training is a good way to improve cognitive abilities.