Musical Training Boosts Attention and Focus, Research Finds

Learning an instrument enhances critical areas of the brain.

Learning an instrument enhances critical areas of the brain.

Musical training provides lasting improvements to attention and focus, research finds.

Musicians have greater control over their attention and are less distracted.

The more musical training a person has, the better they can control their attention.

Musicians also develop better memories, previous studies have shown.

Brain imaging research has even shown critical areas of the brain to be different in musicians.

Changes in the dorsolateral frontal regions (the top front of your head), in particular, are linked to better memory, error detection and goal-oriented behaviour in musicians.

Dr Paulo Barraza, the study’s lead author, said:

“Our study investigated the effects of systematic musical training on the main components of the attentional system.

Our findings demonstrate greater inhibitory attentional control abilities in musicians than non-musicians.

Professional musicians are able to more quickly and accurately respond to and focus on what is important to perform a task, and more effectively filter out incongruent and irrelevant stimuli than non-musicians.

In addition, the advantages are enhanced with increased years of training.”

The conclusions come from a study of 18 professional pianists with an average of 12 years of practice, who were compared with non-musicians.

All were given tests of their attentional systems.

The results showed that musicians were better at ignoring distractions while doing a complex task.

Dr David Medina, the study’s first author, said:

“Our findings of the relationship between musical training and improvement of attentional skills could be useful in clinical or educational fields, for instance, in strengthening the ability of ADHD individuals to manage distractions or the development of school programs encouraging the development of cognitive abilities through the deliberate practice of music.”

The study was published in the journal Heliyon (Medina & Barraza, 2019).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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