Attention and Reaction More Balanced in Musicians’ Brains

From a study by Patston LL, Hogg SL, and Tippett LJ:

Attention in neurologically intact adults normally errs towards the left side of space, as documented in studies involving tasks of visual attention (i.e., line bisection). The aim of this study was to further investigate lateralisation of attention in musicians and non-musicians. Reaction times and accuracy were recorded to stimuli presented to the left and right of a vertical line in 20 right-handed musicians and 20 matched non-musician controls. While both groups performed more accurately to left-sided stimuli, performance by the musician group was significantly more accurate than the non-musician group for the right-sided stimuli. Musicians also had faster reaction times overall. Consistent with previous research, the results indicate a more balanced attentional capacity in musicians, as well as enhanced visuomotor ability, and are interpreted with reference to extended musical training.

People often regard music as a hobby, not to be taken seriously. Although I speak of brain development often, somehow the people I talk to don’t make the connection, but here it is again: learning to play an instrument gives you faster reaction times, and more accuracy in responding to right-presented stimuli. What does this mean? Among other things, it decreases your likelihood of being involved in automobile accidents. I wonder if my insurance company will start offering discounts?

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