July 28, 2003
Music Instrument Training Improves Verbal, Not Visual Memory

Musical training might be a form of exercise for the left brain.

Students with musical training recalled significantly more words than the untrained students, and they generally learned more words with each subsequent trial of three. After 30-minute delays, the trained boys also retained more words than the control group. There were no such differences for visual memory. What's more, verbal learning performance rose in proportion to the duration of musical training.

We need to better organize our left brains.

The researchers, led by Dr Agnes Chan, said giving music lessons to children "somehow contributes to the reorganization [and] better development of the left temporal lobe in musicians, which in turn facilitates cognitive processing mediated by that specific brain area, that is, verbal memory."

But the study did not randomly assign its subjects.

But Nora Newcombe, a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, says there are two major flaws in the new study. The students were not randomized to the music and non-music groups, they were "self-selected," she points out. And, she adds, "It shows nothing [in a study] when you self-select."

Still, the fact that the same people experienced a change in only one type of memory is strongly suggestive that a real effect was found. This is likely to lead to even more attempts by parents to get their kids to take music lessons. But would it help an adult to first take up music lessons in adulthood?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 July 28 10:22 AM  Brain Memory


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