Musical ability is associated with enhanced auditory and visual cognitive processing

BMC Neurosci. 2015 Sep 16;16:59. doi: 10.1186/s12868-015-0200-4.


Background: Musical ability has always been linked to enhanced cognitive and intellectual skills. We were interested in the relation between musical ability and short-time cognitive processing as measured by event-related potentials, in particular in visual processing, since previous studies have already suggested such a link for acoustic cognitive processing. We measured auditory and visual event-related potentials as elicited by an oddball paradigm in 20 healthy subjects (10 musicians and 10 non-musicians; 10 female; mean age 24 ± 2 years). In addition, the Seashore test and a test developed by the authors to detect relevant amusia, the latter one with a high ceiling effect, were also applied.

Results: The most important finding was that there is a significant linear correlation between musical ability as measured by these tests and the P3 latencies of both the auditory and visual event-related potentials. Furthermore, musicians showed shorter latencies of the event-related potentials than non-musicians.

Conclusions: We conclude that musical ability as measured by neuropsychological tests is associated with improved short-time cognitive processing both in the auditory and, surprisingly, also in the visual domain.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Professional Competence
  • Psychometrics
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult