Performance of working memory of musicians and non-musicians in tests with letters, digits, and geometrical shapes

Artem Okhrei, Tetiana Kutsenko, Mykola Makarchuk


Background. Recent researches points out that musical training might have a positive influence on human cognitive domain and working memory improvements are thought to mediate this influence. However, there is some discrepancy among results of researches dealing with working memory testing of musicians and non-musicians.
Materials and Methods. The  participants were the  students who for 10–15 years had been engaged in regular musical practice (musicians) and their peers who had no previous musical experience (non-musicians). A computerized working memory test for letters, digits and shapes with successive presentation of stimuli was applied in the current study.
Results. Musicians and non-musicians did not differ in the  overall number of mistakes and latency of responses made in all subtests for letters, digits and shapes. The left hand made significantly more mistakes than the right one in both groups, but this regularity was more typical of non-musicians. The right hand responded faster than the left one while doing all subtests in both groups, but such a motor asymmetry was more evident for nonmusicians. Musicians mostly did not demonstrate an increase in latency of responses with task complexity growing from set to set of stimuli, while non-musicians did.
Conclusions. The  efficiency of working memory test performance did not differ among musicians and non-musicians. Musicians have tighter interhemispheric cooperation during the memory test and that was indicated by a lesser motor asymmetry. Musicians have almost equal latency of responses regardless of task complexity, while non-musicians require more time for responding to stimuli during growing task complexity, probably because of using different search patterns in working memory or tighter interhemispheric cooperation.


working memory; motor asymmetry; musicians; non-musicians

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ISSN 1392-0146 (Print)
ISSN 2029-0578 (Online)