A Moment of Science

Music and Verbal Memory

Does music enhance memory and verbal ability? Find out on this Moment of Science.

Even if you haven’t touched a piano in years, if you suffered through music lessons as a kid you may have benefited from those lessons in ways you wouldn’t expect. When you train on a musical instrument your brain is stimulated and changes and develops as a result. Because the parts of the brain are interconnected this stimulation doesn’t affect musical ability only.

Psychologists have discovered that the stimulation musical training enacts on the left temporal region of your brain enhances verbal memory. People with musical training are significantly better at recalling words from a list and learning new words. What’s more, the longer the duration of musical training, the better the verbal memory.

So while children who study music for two years demonstrate better verbal memory than children who have not studied music, children who continue to study music continue to improve their verbal memory. The good news for those of us who trained on musical instruments but quit at some point is that we don’t seem to lose the verbal benefits we gain from this training.

Scientists are particularly interested in what this suggests about the interconnectedness of the brain and thus the predictability of the effects of stimulation to a brain area on cognitive functions located in that area. Further research may lead to developments in cognitive rehabilitation for people with brain injuries. For example, in order to rebuild verbal memory in patients with injury to that part of the brain, doctors may prescribe music lessons.

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