Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Impact of Musical Training on the Phonological Memory and the Central Executive: A Brief Report

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Impact of Musical Training on the Phonological Memory and the Central Executive: A Brief Report

Article excerpt

The impact of musical training on different cognitive abilities is an important topic. There is evidence suggesting that training in music leads to improvement in not just music-related abilities but also in aspects of cognition not directly associated with music. Several research studies in adults have shown that musicians are superior to non-musicians on verbal memory (Chan, Ho, & Cheung, 1998; Jakobson, Cuddy, & Kilgour, 2003), reasoning (Brandler & Rammsayer, 2003), flexibility of closure and perceptual speed (Helmbold, Rammsayer, & Altenmuller, 2005), recalling visually presented note patterns (Kalakoski, 2007), visuospatial cognition (Sluming, Brooks, Howard, Downes, & Roberts, 2007), creativity and divergent thinking (Gibson, Folley, & Park, 2009), and perception of various speech features in both first and second languages (Sadakata & Seklyama, 2011). Some researchers have suggested that working memory (WM), defined as the temporary storage and manipulation of information required for complex cognitive tasks, could be an underlying factor responsible for the association between musicality and a broad range of cognitive abilities (Elyse & Coch, 2001; Lee, Lu, & Ko, 2007). This proposal seems viable given the link between WM and complex cognitive abilities (Ackerman, Beier, & Boyle, 2005; Kane, Hambrick, & Conway, 2005). Several investigations show that musicians are better than non-musicians on numbers reversed (Parbery-Clark, Skoe, Lam, & Kraus, 2009), auditory WM (Musacchia, Sams, Skoe, & Kraus, 2007; Parbery-Clark, Skoe, & Kraus, 2009; Wong, Skoe, Russo, Dees, & Kraus, 2007), non-word span, which is the repetition of nonsense words that have no correspondence with real English words and forward digit span (Lee et al. 2007), reading span and operation span tasks (Franklin, Moore, Yip, Jonides, Rattray, & Moher, 2008), phonological, visuospatial, and central executive aspects of WM system (Elyse & Coch 2011), and WM of musical sounds (Pallesen, Brattico, Bailey, Korvenoja, Koivisto, Gjedde, & Carlson, 2010).

The present research is an extension of previous investigations, which aimed at exploring the impact of music on two important components, phonological memory and central executive, of the WM model envisioned by Baddeley and Hitch (1974). Phonological memory refers to the temporary storage of information related to the sound structure of novel words, and the central executive is responsible for the coordination of the working memory system. The present study used non-word repetition and forward digit span to measure phonological memory, and used reading span and backward digit span tests to tap the central executive functions of both musicians and non-musicians. Franklin et al. (2008) used a reading span test in which the participants were required to recall 'letters' after making judgments about the semantic accuracy of sentences. Recalling letters assessed the storage component of WM while the semantic judgments assessed the processing component of WM. The current study employed a modified version of the reading span test developed originally by Daneman and Carpenter (1980). This required the participants to recall final words of sentences after making semantic judgments about them. Only Lee et al. (2007) used a non-word span test to investigate the effects of musical training on phonological memory. This study was conducted in a different language. The non-word repetition stimuli used in the current study were developed using strict criteria in terms of probability distribution, neighborhood density, and stress patterns. These variables have to be considered because they can affect subjects' performances on non-word repetition--see Gupta et al. 2004 for details on how the non-word stimuli were developed. Based on the recent findings which have demonstrated the effects of music on a broad range of cognitive and WM tasks (see Brandler & Rammsayer, 2003; Elyse & Coch, 2001; Franklin et al. …

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