Theta and alpha oscillations may underlie improved attention and working memory in musically trained children

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Introduction: Attention and working memory are key cognitive functions that allow us to select and maintain information in our mind for a short time, being essential for our daily life and, in particular, for learning and academic performance. It has been shown that musical training can improve working memory performance, but it is still unclear if and how the neural mechanisms of working memory and particularly attention are implicated in this process. In this work, we aimed to identify the oscillatory signature of bimodal attention and working memory that contributes to improved working memory in musically trained children. Materials and methods: We recruited children with and without musical training and asked them to complete a bimodal (auditory/visual) attention and working memory task, whereas their brain activity was measured using electroencephalography. Behavioral, time–frequency, and source reconstruction analyses were made. Results: Results showed that, overall, musically trained children performed better on the task than children without musical training. When comparing musically trained children with children without musical training, we found modulations in the alpha band pre-stimuli onset and the beginning of stimuli onset in the frontal and parietal regions. These correlated with correct responses to the attended modality. Moreover, during the end phase of stimuli presentation, we found modulations correlating with correct responses independent of attention condition in the theta and alpha bands, in the left frontal and right parietal regions. Conclusions: These results suggest that musically trained children have improved neu ronal mechanisms for both attention allocation and memory encoding. Our results can be important for developing interventions for people with attention and working memory difficulties.



Attention, Musicians, Neural oscillations, Working memory


Kausel, L., Zamorano, F., Billeke, P., Sutherland, M. E., Alliende, M. I., Larrain-Valenzuela, J., Soto-Icaza, P., & Aboitiz, F. (2024). Theta and alpha oscillations may underlie improved attention and working memory in musically trained children. Brain and Behavior, 14, e3517.