Classical Music, Learning and Memory

From a study by Moshe Bar, Elissa Aminoff, and Daniel L. Schacter :

The parahippocampal cortex (PHC) has been implicated in both place/scene processing and episodic memory. We proposed that this region should instead be seen as intrinsically mediating contextual associations and not place/scene processing or episodic memory exclusively. Given that place/scene processing and episodic memory both rely on associations, this modified framework provides a platform for reconciling what seemed like different roles assigned to the same region. Comparing scenes with scenes, we show here that the PHC responds significantly more strongly to scenes with rich contextual associations compared with scenes of equal visual qualities but less associations. This result adds unequivocal support to the view that the PHC mediates contextual associations in general rather than places or scenes proper, and necessitates a revision of the current view that the PHC contains a dedicated place/scenes “module.”

drawing of boy and girl sitting at table in schoolroom; working on a project, with record player going. Boy is cutting out a dinosaur and girl is putting flowers in a vase

Illustration of School Children Working on Projects

So for those skeptics of playing classical music while learning or studying, we see that by adding contextual associations, the parahippocampal cortex will respond more strongly to the material. The more contextual associations we can add, the more activation will happen in the parahippocampal cortex, and this might be a key to why we seem to remember things better if we play classical music while learning them. Of course, you’ll have to read my other posts to understand why it’s classical music that’s important in this scenario.

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