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

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Several investigations have demonstrated the positive impact of music on a wide array of cognitive skills. Working memory has been implicated as the underlying factor responsible for the association between musicality and performance on certain cognitive tasks. The current study is an extension of previous investigations that have examined the relationship between musicality and working memory. It explored the effects of musical training on the phonological memory and the central executive components of working memory by using well-established and carefully developed stimuli. Sixty healthy young adults, 30 musicians and 30 non-musicians, were administered tasks of phonological memory which included non-word repetition and digit span, and central executive functions, including reading span and backward digit span. The findings revealed that musical training had positive effects on not just domain-specific phonological memory tasks but also on more domain-general central executive tasks. This indicates enhanced cognitive and auditory processing skills among musicians.

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, & Altenmüller, 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...