Musical Training Enhances Long Term Memory Interview Invitation with:
Dr. Heekyeong Park
Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Texas at Arlington

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Park: This study shows that music experts with extensive musical training may have altered neural processing related to improved memory.

There has been much interest in the beneficial effects of musical training on cognition. Notably, musical training has been reported to boost processing of verbal material. Previous studies have indicated that musical training was related to superior verbal working memory and that these differences in musical training were associated with differences in neural activity in brain regions important for verbal processing. However, it was not clear whether musical training impacts memory in general, beyond working memory for verbal items. By recruiting professional musicians with vast instrumental training, we investigated if extensive musical training has a broad impact on memory with corresponding changes in the brain.

For this study, we compared highly trained musicians (10+ years of experience) and individuals with little or no formal musical training on working memory and long-term memory tasks. Each memory task included both verbal and pictorial items. We measured memory accuracy on tasks and scalp-recorded changes in the brain’s electrical activity (ERPs) while participants studied and remembered items. Musicians showed enhanced performance on the working memory task for both words and pictures. For the long-term memory task, musicians also remembered studied pictures better than non-musicians. These behavioral findings demonstrate the relationship between extensive musical training and improved memory broadly. ERP waveforms were also different between musicians and non-musicians while they performed long-term memory tasks.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Park: Our results indicate that cognitive benefits of musical training do not seem to be limited to working memory for verbal material. These findings suggest that extensive musical training is associated with improved long-term memory beyond working memory. Further, different ERP activity between musicians and non-musicians implicates the possibility that extensive musical training may alter memory processing in the brain. In conclusion, these findings highlight the beneficial effects of musical training on memory in general.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Park: The next step for this research will include the investigation of the pattern of neural networks underlying long-term memory with musicians and individuals with varying levels of musical training. In addition, we aim to perform covariate analyses with memorial advantage due to music training and individual differences.


Neuroscience 2014 abstract discussing:

Musicians show advantages in long-term memory

The findings presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference in Washington DC on November 18 2014. The abstract for the presentation “An ERP study of memory differences between musicians versus non-musicians” by J. SCHAEFFER, R. MEAHL, and H. PARK is available



Last Updated on November 22, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD