Studies shows that early music training and the popular herb Ginkgo biloba have benefits for human memory. Ginkgo biloba, derived from a tree, has been used in Chinese medicine for 5,000 years and has become a best selling herbal supplement in the United States and abroad during the past half decade.
Researchers gave a series of tests on verbal memory to 30 females who had had at least six years of music lessons before age 12, and 30 who did not have any music instruction. A typical test was to have the students listen to a list of 16 words and then try to recall as many as possible.
They found that adults with music training learned significantly more words than those without any music training. Music training in childhood may therefore have long-term positive effects on verbal memory. Early music training, however, did not turn out to be associated with improved visual memory, such as reproducing drawings from memory.
The findings on music and verbal memory are consistent with the results of a 1995 study that compared MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the brains of musicians with non-musicians. The MRIs showed that the left planum temporale region of the brain is larger in musicians than in non-musicians. If this [difference] results from a change in cortical organization, the left temporal area in musicians might have a better developed cognitive function than the right temporal lobe.
The implication is that musical training might bring about changes in the function, as well as the structure, of the left temporal part of the brain. Since that area also handles memory for words, Chan and her colleagues speculated before beginning their study that people with musical training might have better verbal memory than people who have not studied music. The right temporal lobe handles visual memory, and researchers predicted that musicians and non-musicians would have a similar aptitude for remembering what they see. Both of these theories were borne out in the results of the Chan study.