Neuroscientists have found new proof that learning to play an instrument could possibly be good for the brain. Musically trained children perform better at focus and memory recall and have greater activation in brain areas related to attention control and control encoding, executive functions known to be related to improved reading, higher resilience, greater creativity, and also a better quality of life. These results are printed in the open-access diary Frontiers in Neuroscience.
The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Universidad del Desarrollo Chile, tested the focus and working memory of 40 Chilean children between 10-13 years old. Twenty played an instrument, had had at least two years of study, practiced at least 2 h weekly and regularly played in an orchestra or ensemble. Twenty control children, recruited from public schools in Santiago, had had no musical training aside from in the school program. Their focus and working memory was assessed through the previously developed and supported “bimodal (auditory/visual) attention and working memory (WM) task”. During this task, Kausel et al. monitored brain activity of the children with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), detecting small changes in blood flow within the brain.
There wasn’t any difference between both groups in response time. But, musically trained kids did considerably better on the memory task.
“Our most important finding is that two different mechanisms seem to underlie the better performance of musically trained children in the attention and WM memory task,” says Kausel. “One that supports more domain-general attention mechanisms and another that supports more domain-specific auditory encoding mechanisms.” “bimodal (auditory/visual) attention and working memory (WM) task”. During this endeavor, Kausel et al monitored brain activity of the children with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), detecting small changes in blood flow within the brain.
Here, “domain” refers to how sensorial modalities — types of perceptions Such as heat, noise, or light — are modulated by the mind, while domain-specific vs. -general means that just one vs. more than 1 sensorial modality is processed, and”mechanism” refers to the neurochemical processes that occur. Both mechanisms seem to have improved function in musically trained kids. For the domain-specific mechanism, brain areas that are more active include the inferior frontal gyrus and the supramarginal gyrus – in the front and also center-front of the mind, both a part of the so-called”phonological loop”a working memory system involved in auditory processing, demonstrating auditory-motor connections, and tonal and verbal auditory working memory. For the domain-general mechanism, a more lively brain region is probably the fronto-parietal management network, a large scale network composed of different brain regions that deals with executive function, goal-oriented, and cognitively-demanding tasks.
Kausel et al. 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,” says Kausel. “We also aim to make a longitudinal study on musical training with children, evaluating attention and working memory, and the possibility to evaluate a musical training intervention on ADHD children.”
Does this mean you should sign your kids up for music classes?
“Obviously, I’d recommend that,” Kausel agrees. “However, I Believe parents should not only enrol their children since they hope this will help them boost their cognitive capabilities, but as it’s also an activity that, even when very demanding, will provide them with joy as well as the possibility to learn a universal language.”
“The next step of this project will be to set the causality of the Mechanics we found for improving attention and working memory,” says Kausel. “We also plan to make a longitudinal research on musical practice with kids, evaluating attention and working memory, and also the possibility to evaluate a musical training intervention on ADHD children.”
How the analysis was done
Accommodated the bimodal attention and WM memory They asked participants to focus on either , both, or neither stimuli of a pair: a visual abstract figure and a brief melody, presented simultaneously for a length of 4 s (“encoding phase”). They also measured accuracy of answers and response time.
FMRI is a non-invasive method that measures brain activity in Real time: increased blood flow to a region implies improved action. To determine activity associated with paying attention, Kausel et al. Subtracted fMRI data acquired from”passive” trials (i.e. when kids Passively observe the bimodal stimuli, without a memory recall task) From those obtained during”busy” trials (i.e. when children paid Attention to sensory or sensory stimuli). From thisthey could Identify brain regions associated with paying attention and memory encoding, triggered through the intervening phases.
Related Journal Article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2020.554731/full