Image courtesy of the Child Language Lab
Image courtesy of the Child Language Lab

Are musicians better at recognising hidden statistical patterns?

Learning music is associated with many things, but until recently it wasn’t correlated with statistical learning ability. Dr Pragati R Mandikal Vasuki has been teasing out the exact nature of this correlation and what it might mean.

In recent studies that she has conducted with samples of musicians and non-musicians, Pragati has found enhanced statistical learning among musicians. That is, an ability to detect and anticipate hidden patterns in auditory stimuli. Not only that, but through the use of innovative EEG techniques, Pragati observed that when compared to a non-trained group, adults with musical training showed earlier and larger changes in brain activity while detecting auditory patterns. Pragati’s research paves the way for using EEG in assessing statistical learning for clinical populations.

Don’t down tools and head to the piano straight away though, the musicians that manifested these traits of enhanced statistical learning had been practicing for at least 10 years and they had all started learning music before they were 9.

Musicians brains make wonderful models for cortical plasticity and for examining the impacts of training. Pragati’s work investigates the long- as well as short-term consequences musical training on the brain. Recent EEG findings in samples of children learning music have showed that changes in brain activity were observed not only for auditory but also visual patterns. The benefits of learning music throughout childhood continue to be discovered at Macquarie.