Selective attention is associated with childhood music training

The results of Northwestern University research published in 2015 show that music training is related to the development of selective attention and inhibitory control.

Selective attention acts as a mediator between the world around us and our experience of that world. It provides an essential foundation for almost every aspect of our lives, including how we learn, how we act, and the selection of thoughts and perceptions to meld into memories. For young children, the development of strong auditory attention skills is critical to successful learning and language development.

The findings of the research conducted by Jessica Slater, Andrea Azem, Trent Nicol, Britta Swedenborg and Dr Nina Kraus, provide the first direct evidence of a biological index for selective auditory attention in young musicians and suggest that music training can support the maturation of auditory attention during pivotal developmental years.

They compared the responses of musicians and nonmusicians across three age groups: preschoolers, school-aged children and young adults. Two age-appropriate short stories were simultaneously played through two wall-mounted loudspeakers to the left and right of participants. Participants were asked to listen to one of the two stories and direct their gaze at a wall-mounted screen 1.5m in front of them. After a set time, the participants were asked questions about the story they were told to listen to, and then repeated the process by listening to the other story and answering further questions.

Australian music education researcher Anita Collins mentioned the research on her Facebook page and noted: Inhibitory control is the ability to regulate our attention or behavioural responses in any given situation. This is a learned skill and one that is vital for effective learning, musical or otherwise. How many students (and maybe adults) do you know that struggle with their inhibitory control and could benefit from formal music training on an instrument?

Unfortunately the lack of an active control group prevents the researchers from linking this ability exclusively to musicians. It is possible that hearing skills developed through other activities such as foreign language-learning and dance yield similar effects. But an awareness of music training-associated benefits for the development of attention provides important considerations for educators and educational policy-makers involved in curriculum design.

SOURCE:
Science Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878929315000146

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN & ADULTS
AGE: 3-35-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: AUDITORY TEST
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 77
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2015
PLACE: USA

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