From Zanto et al:
Musical training can improve numerous cognitive functions associated with musical performance. Yet, there is limited evidence that musical training may benefit nonmusical tasks and it is unclear how the brain may enable such a transfer of benefit. To address this, nonmusicians were randomized to receive 8 wk of either musical rhythm training or word search training. Memory for faces was assessed pre- and post-training while electroencephalography data were recorded to assess changes in brain activity. Results showed that only musical rhythm training improved face memory, which was associated with increased activity in the superior parietal region of the brain when encoding and maintaining faces. Thus, musical rhythm training can improve face memory by facilitating how the brain encodes and maintains memories.Abstract
Playing a musical instrument engages numerous cognitive abilities, including sensory perception, selective attention, and short-term memory. Mounting evidence indicates that engaging these cognitive functions during musical training will improve performance of these same functions. Yet, it remains unclear the extent these benefits may extend to nonmusical tasks, and what neural mechanisms may enable such transfer. Here, we conducted a preregistered randomized clinical trial where nonmusicians underwent 8 wk of either digital musical rhythm training or word search as control. Only musical rhythm training placed demands on short-term memory, as well as demands on visual perception and selective attention, which are known to facilitate short-term memory. As hypothesized, only the rhythm training group exhibited improved short-term memory on a face recognition task, thereby providing important evidence that musical rhythm training can benefit performance on a nonmusical task. Analysis of electroencephalography data showed that neural activity associated with sensory processing and selective attention were unchanged by training. Rather, rhythm training facilitated neural activity associated with short-term memory encoding, as indexed by an increased P3 of the event-related potential to face stimuli. Moreover, short-term memory maintenance was enhanced, as evidenced by increased two-class (face/scene) decoding accuracy. Activity from both the encoding and maintenance periods each highlight the right superior parietal lobule (SPL) as a source for training-related changes. Together, these results suggest musical rhythm training may improve memory for faces by facilitating activity within the SPL to promote how memories are encoded and maintained, which can be used in a domain-general manner to enhance performance on a nonmusical task.