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19-12-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2019

Psychological Research 6/2019

Is working memory training in older adults sensitive to music?

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2019
Erika Borella, Barbara Carretti, Chiara Meneghetti, Elena Carbone, Margherita Vincenzi, Jessica Cira Madonna, Massimo Grassi, Beth Fairfield, Nicola Mammarella


Evidence in the literature suggests that listening to music can improve cognitive performance. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the short- and long-term gains of a working memory (WM) training in older adults could be enhanced by music listening—the Mozart’s Sonata K448 and the Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor—which differ in tempo and mode. Seventy-two healthy older adults (age range: 65–75 years) participated in the study. They were divided into four groups. At each training session, before starting the WM training activities, one group listened to Mozart (Mozart group, N = 19), one to Albinoni (Albinoni group, N = 19), one to white noise (White noise group, N = 16), while one served as an active control group involved in other activities and was not exposed to any music (active control group, N = 18). Specific training gains on a task like the one used in the training, and transfer effects on visuo-spatial abilities, executive function and reasoning measures were assessed. Irrespective of listening condition (Mozart, Albinoni, White noise), trained groups generally outperformed the control group. The White noise group never differed from the two music groups. However, the Albinoni group showed larger specific training gains in the criterion task at short-term and transfer effects in the reasoning task at both short-and long term compared to the Mozart group. Overall the present findings suggest caution when interpreting the effects of music before a WM training, and are discussed according to aging and music effect literature.

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