Leonie Kausel

Musical Training in Childhood Linked to Improved Attention and Working Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Leonie Kausel

Dr. Leonie Kausel

Leonie Margarita Kausel, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher
Development University
Santiago, Chile 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: As a violin teacher, I observed the positive impact on many levels that musical training has on children and as a scientist (Biochemist), I was intrigued to be able to show this with data. I thought this was very important, because in my experience childhood music education can give you so much joy and important skills for life, but it is often not considered to be important in educational settings. After attending a seminar on education and neuroscience, I discovered that this discipline could allow me to investigate this in a scientific manner. This inspired me to enter the Neuroscience PhD program at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile where I was lucky to work with Dr. Francisco Aboitiz, who has vast experience in attention research (ADHD) and is an international expert in language and evolution. At that time Dr. Mary Elizabeth Sutherland was making her postdoc at the lab, and she had worked with Dr. Robert Zatorre, one of the leading researchers in music and the brain. Also, I was lucky to work with Dr. Francisco Zamorano, a pioneer of fMRI research in Chile. So together we designed the research. 🙂  Also, I am very grateful that I could make a research stay at the Lab of Dr. Gottfried Schalug, who is also a pioneer in the research of music and the brain, and who inspired me to do this research since he wrote the first papers that I read about this subject. 

 MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: The main findings are that two different mechanisms seem to underlie the better performance of musically trained children in our task. One that supports more domain-general attention mechanisms (fronto-parietal control network) and another that supports more domain-specific auditory encoding mechanisms (phonological loop – IFG SMG). To my knowledge, this is the first time that these two mechanisms are described to be acting simultaneously in musically trained children. In terms of general knowledge I think the results help to better understand which neural networks support better performance in attention and working memory, in this case by investigating musically trained children as a research model of attention and working memory entrainment. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It seems that musical training can improve attention and working memory, which are executive functions that are important for daily life and are correlated with general better outcomes during lifespan. As such, I certainly hope that this research will help to convince the general public / parents that it is a good investment to give their children music lessons. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: I think that these mechanisms can be examined more closely, as for example determining causality of the found brain regions in the boost of the examined cognitive functions, and also the possibility of developing music-based interventions to improve attention skills.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We are very proud to have carried out this research in Chile, in a population that is underrepresented on a global level. Usually these kinds of studies are carried out in North America or Europe.


Kausel L, Zamorano F, Billeke P, Sutherland ME, Larrain-Valenzuela J, Stecher X, Schlaug G and Aboitiz F (2020) Neural Dynamics of Improved Bimodal Attention and Working Memory in Musically Trained Children. Front. Neurosci. 14:554731. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.554731


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Last Updated on October 8, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD