Music Training and Executive Function

All of these skills, the ability to pay attention and focus, impulse control, flexible thinking, and remembering multiple things at once, or working memory, are executive functioning skills. These mental abilities help the brain process information efficiently. By practicing music, children and adults are also practicing and building executive function. In fact, one of the ways researchers think music training affects speech sound processing is by boosting cognitive function, including executive functioning skills.

Researchers have used various methods to measure executive functioning skills in children who are learning to play music. One study found that children who participated in just 20 days of music lessons did better on a test of impulse control than kids who did not. Another study found that children and young adults who play music scored higher on working memory tests than those who do not.

  • Beat
    the regular pulse of music
    Electroencephalography (EEG)
    a non-invasive method used to measure electrical activity in the brain
    Executive function
    a set of mental abilities that help us focus attention, remember information, and switch between tasks
    Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
    a non-invasive brain imaging technique used to determine which regions of the brain are active
    a grouping of beats with specific patterns
    the ability to change how neurons in our brain are connected to each other
    the measure of how high or low we perceive sounds to be
    Pro-social behavior
    actions that are intended to help others
    Synchronized movement
    movements that occur in sync with musical beats and, or with other people
    the quality of a musical sound or voice that allows us to tell the differences between instruments or voices