Musicians' edge: A comparison of auditory processing, cognitive abilities and statistical learning

Hear Res. 2016 Dec;342:112-123. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2016.10.008. Epub 2016 Oct 19.


It has been hypothesized that musical expertise is associated with enhanced auditory processing and cognitive abilities. Recent research has examined the relationship between musicians' advantage and implicit statistical learning skills. In the present study, we assessed a variety of auditory processing skills, cognitive processing skills, and statistical learning (auditory and visual forms) in age-matched musicians (N = 17) and non-musicians (N = 18). Musicians had significantly better performance than non-musicians on frequency discrimination, and backward digit span. A key finding was that musicians had better auditory, but not visual, statistical learning than non-musicians. Performance on the statistical learning tasks was not correlated with performance on auditory and cognitive measures. Musicians' superior performance on auditory (but not visual) statistical learning suggests that musical expertise is associated with an enhanced ability to detect statistical regularities in auditory stimuli.

Keywords: Attention; Auditory processing; Digit span; Musicians; Statistical learning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology
  • Young Adult