LivingLearning music can improve attention

Learning music can improve attention

A new study published in the journal Heliyon suggests that music training can improve a person’s ability to focus and disconnect from distractions , that is, improve their attention.

Previous research suggested that music training improves blood flow in areas of the brain involved in language processing. More recent studies have shown that listening to music can even “motivate” the brain to learn by stimulating neural networks associated with reward processing.

Now a new work shows that music training can also have an important effect on attention control. A team of researchers led by Paulo Barraza, from the Center for Advanced Research in Education at the University of Chile in Santiago, examined the link between musical training and attention.

The authors explain that the brain’s attention system consists of three subsystems , each with its own “anatomically distinct neural network.” These three subsystems correspond to the “alert, guidance and executive control networks”.

Attention divided into three blocks

The brain’s alert network keeps us ready for action. The orientation web helps us distinguish between relevant and irrelevant sensory information and helps us shift focus. The executive control network helps us block out distracting information and also participates in “top-down attention control.”

For their study, the researchers asked 18 professional musicians and 18 participants with no musical background to take a standard care network test. The musicians were trained pianists who had practiced for 12 years.

As part of the test, the participants had to look at various images that quickly appeared before their eyes.

The team measured the participants’ reactive behavior by analyzing how long it took them to respond to the image changes. A longer reaction time would indicate less efficient attention control.

On average, the trained musicians obtained 43.84 milliseconds (ms) for the alert subsystem, 43.70 ms for the guidance and 53.83 for the executive network.

In comparison, non-musicians scored 41.98 ms, 51.56 ms, and 87.19 ms, respectively. It is important to highlight that the attentional control improved proportionally with the number of years of musical training that the participants had.

“Our findings,” Barraza points out, “demonstrate a greater ability to control inhibitory attention in musicians than in non-musicians. Professional musicians can respond more quickly and accurately to what is important to perform a task, and filter incongruous and irrelevant stimuli more effectively than non-musicians. Furthermore, the advantages increase with increasing years of training. “

The scientists also explain that their findings add to growing evidence that music training increases “extra-musical” cognitive abilities.

Study co-author David Medina, from the Department of Music at the Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences in Santiago, Chile, also comments on the results: “Our findings on the relationship between music training and improvement of attention skills could be useful in clinical or educational fields, for example, by strengthening the ability of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to manage distractions or by developing school programs that encourage the development of cognitive skills through deliberate practice of the music”.

“Future longitudinal investigations should directly address these interpretations,” concludes Medina.

Referencia: Efficiency of attentional networks in musicians and non-musicians. David Medina , Paulo Barraza HELIYON 2019 DOI:


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