Looking to boost your brain power? Try picking up a musical instrument.
Previous research indicates musicians have better language processing skills and enhanced working memory when compared to non-musicians, meaning they may be better able to process new information and synthesize it with their established knowledge. Now, a new study demonstrates that they may also be better able to store that established knowledge for the long-term, thanks to enhanced long-term memory.
University of Texas at Arlington researchers measured electrical activity of neurons in the brains of 14 musicians who had been studying classical music for at least 15 years. The researchers had participants play memory games with both words and pictures while hooked up to electroencephalography technology (EEG), which records processing differences in the frontal and temporal lobes. The memory games tested both working and long-term memory.
As established in previous research, the musicians scored higher than a control group of non-musicians on the working memory tasks. And in the tests of long-term memory, the musicians also scored higher for pictures. The researchers were not yet sure why musicians have this advantage in long-term memory, but speculate that training in reading music may cause musicians to become more efficient at processing visual cues.
The findings suggest that musical training may be a promising treatment option for people who struggle with cognitive challenges, according to Dr. Heekyeong Park, a psychologist at UT Arlington and the study's lead author.
“Our work is adding evidence that music training is a good way to improve cognitive abilities,” Park said in a statement.
The finding was presented on November 18 at Neuroscience 2014, the international meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in Washington, D.C.