Health In Focus
  • Learning music or speaking another language can train your brain to be more efficient
  • Musicians and bilinguals (people who can speak two languages) have better working memory and the ability to remember things in mind
  • Musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task which can improve thinking skills, thereby delaying the onset of dementia

Learning music or speaking another language can improve brain function, reports a new study.

A team of researchers observed that musicians and bilinguals, i.e., individuals who can speak two languages fluently used fewer brain resources while performing a working memory task. The findings of the study are published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Musical and Bilingual Knowledge Can Improve Brain Function

Musicians and people who are bilingual have better working memory and the ability to remember things in mind such as remembering a phone number, a list of instructions or doing mental math.

"These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia," said Dr. Claude Alain, first author of the paper and senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute.

Details of the Study

The study is the first brain imaging study examining at all three groups, and this work reveals how these activities can enhance different parts of the brain among individuals, suggested Dr. Alain.

Categories for the Study

  • English-speaking non-musicians
  • Musicians who only spoke English
  • Bilinguals who did not play a musical instrument
The study included 41 young adult participants with age ranging between 19-35, who fit into the above three categories.

The researchers used sounds from
  • Musical instruments
  • Environment
  • Humans
Task 1: Using brain imaging, the research team examined whether each participant was able to recognize whether the sound produced was the same as the previous one.

Task 2: The participants were also asked to identify whether the sound heard was coming from the same direction as the previous noise.

Findings of the Study

  • People with musical background remembered the type of sound faster than individuals in the other groups
  • People who belonged to bilinguals and musicians category performed better on the location task i.e., locating from which direction the sound was produced
  • The performance of bilinguals on remembering the sound was similar to the individuals who spoke only one language and did not play a musical instrument. However, they still showed less brain activity when completing the task

What are the Benefits of Learning Music or Speaking Another Language?

The study observed that people with a musical or bilingual background activated different brain networks which showed a lesser brain activity to complete the task compared to people who only spoke one language and did not have any formal music training.

The outcomes of the study also illustrated whether a person tries to learn how to play a musical instrument or another new language mainly depends on the experience of the person which can help to understand how the brain functions and which networks are utilized, added Dr. Claude Alain.

"People who speak two languages may take longer to process sounds since the information is run through two language libraries rather than just one," said Dr. Alain, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Institute of Medical Science and the Department of Psychology.

The research team reported that during the study, the brains of bilinguals showed more significant signs of activation in areas that are responsible for speech comprehension.

The next step of the research team is to investigate whether the impact of art and musical training may contribute to changes in brain function among adults.

Reference :
  1. Claude Alain, Yasha Khatamian, Yu He, Yunjo Lee, Sylvain Moreno, Ada W. S. Leung, Ellen Bialystok. "Different neural activities support auditory working memory in musicians and bilinguals". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2018) DOI: 10.1111/nyas.13717

Source: Medindia

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