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Latest news in literacy, child development, and all things DM Ed

Learning a musical instrument helps enhance working memory

by Maddie Rossmaur || 28 Nov 2016

Some researchers now argue that it [musical training] might also boost speech processing and learning in children with dyslexia and other language impairments. (The Guardian)

Until now, scientists and game-makers alike have been stumped on ways to improve short-term, or working, memory.

Game-makers constantly release games that claim to “train your brain” and improve cognitive performance (with memory boosting included in this). But the effects of this “brain training” outside the game are yet to be seen. Rather, game-users improve the cognitive skills required by the game, but these skills have not yet been proven to enhance cognitive ability in the outside world.

Now, psychologists say that “learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.”

Neuropsychologist, Charlotte Loveday, says that ““Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t… It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”

Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument can:

  • Increase grey matter volume in various brain regions, strengthening the long-range connections between them
  • Enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning and literacy skills
  • Increase resilience to age-related decline in hearing

We’ve identified a poor working memory as one of the contributing factors to reading difficulties. In the Easyread programme, reading breakthroughs take a little longer when a child has a weaker short-term memory, as they work on rereading, rereading and rereading words to help transfer them to the long-term memory.

If music does help to improve working memory, that could be very exciting indeed…

You can read the full Guardian article here