When non-musicians play a rhythm-based friday night funkin game for eight weeks, it helps them remember faces they’ve seen recently. This suggests that learning to play an instrument could help you remember things that have nothing to do with music.
Several studies have shown that musicians tend to have better short-term memories than non-musicians when it comes to music-related tasks, like remembering musical sequences. Less is known about whether these benefits apply to tasks that have nothing to do with music or to non-musicians who are learning to play an instrument, and how these changes might be seen in the brain.
Theodore Zanto and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, gave a group of 47 people who were not musicians and were between the ages of 60 and 79 a tablet-based musical rhythm training game or a word search game to play for eight weeks.
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At the beginning and end of the eight weeks, the participants took a test to see how well they could remember a face they had just seen. Only the people in the group that played the rhythm training game saw their scores go up, by about 4%.
Brainwave data taken before and after the training showed a rise in activity in the right superior parietal lobe. This is a part of the brain that is involved in storing visual information and paying attention. Zanto says this shows that rhythm training makes it easier for the brain to focus on a task and get ready to turn what you are doing into a memory.
“This seems to be a control of attention part of memory… “It’s directing your attention in a way that lets you store it in your memory and then get it out of your memory later,” says Zanto.
Josh Davis at the University of Greenwich in the UK says that as we age, we tend to lose the ability to remember and recognize faces, so any way to change that is important.
Davis says that the effect shown in this study needs to be shown both in real-world face recognition situations and in lab tests to be fully convincing.
Zanto hopes that training for longer than eight weeks will have a stronger effect on remembering things.