Ask Dr. Nandi: Musical training may improve attention

Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 07:00:01-04

According to a new study, musical training may come with unexpected benefits. It could help with your focus.

It’s not surprising that music has powerful effects on our brains. It doesn’t matter if it’s rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, jazz or classical. If you like it, it will feel good and uplift your mood. But the benefits don’t stop there, new research shows musical training can affect your attention.

The study included 18 professional musicians who had been practicing music for 12 years, and 18 participants who were nonmusical, meaning they could not read music and had no formal lessons.

Now everyone took part in tests where they watched images while researchers timed how long it took for them to respond to changes. And when they compared both these groups, the musicians scored much better.

In particular, they were superior when it came to executive control, a part of the brain’s attentional system that helps to block out distracting info. Here, the professional musicians scored 87.19 milliseconds compared to 53.83 for the nonmusical participants.

So basically, they were much better at responding quickly and accurately and were also more effective at ignoring insignificant stimuli.

So, since musical training can improve one’s focus, maybe it’s time for you to try out an instrument and get practicing? If that doesn’t interest you, there are other things you can do to improve your focus so here are my prescriptions:

  1. Exercise. It revs up your brain while boosting thinking skills and concentration.
  2. Try meditation. Evidence links better attention control in experienced meditators when compared to non-meditators.
  3. Engage your brain. New activities make you think and learn new information which helps keep your brain healthy.
  4. Eat healthy because food can impact our brains. For instance, fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and one study found a connection between omega-3 levels and better-thinking abilities.

But let me get back to music and the impact it has on us. Just listening can promote wellness by stimulating endorphins, releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine, it can also lower stress, and energize you.

So I highly recommend that you turn on your favorite tunes and dance around the house. You’ll get a nice workout while the music positively impacts your mind and body.