New research suggests upbeat or uplifting music (especially the first movement, “Spring” of Antonio Vivaldi’s concerti known as “The Four Seasons”), can enhance attention and memory.
In the study, investigators from Northumbria University, in the UK, observed a group of 14 young adults perform a mental concentration test. The subjects were asked to press the space bar on a keyboard when a green square appeared on screen and ignore different colored circles and squares that appeared intermittently.
The participants carried out this task both in silence and while listening to each of the four concertos while their brain activity was measured using EEG brain imaging.
Results showed that participants responded correctly faster when listening to the uplifting “Spring” concerto.
When listening to the concerto, the average response time in performing the task was 393.8 milliseconds as opposed to 408.1 milliseconds when the task was carried out in silence.
This response time rose to 413.3 milliseconds when they listened to the slower and more somber “Autumn” music, therefore showing a decrease in mental capacity.
Researcher said a salient aspect of the findings was that the Spring concerto gave rise to enhancement of a brain measure related to emotional responsiveness.
“The ‘Spring’ movement enhanced overall activity within the brain but had an exaggerated effect on the area of the brain that’s important for emotional processing. It seemed to give rise to particular imagery in the brain and evoke positive, contented feelings which translated into higher levels of cognitive functioning,” said psychologist Dr. Leigh Riby.
Riby believes the “Spring” movement is particularly special and could be used in therapeutic settings. In fact, this familiar piece has been used successfully in marketing to induce mood and influence behavior.
Riby discovered the key in which the music was written had no impact on brain performance. For example, while the Spring concerto, which is written in a major key enhanced cognitive function, the Autumn movement, which is also written in a major key, did not.
He added: “The current study provides evidence that there is an indirect effect of music on cognition that is created by mood, alertness and emotion.
“This experiment shows that cognitive capacity is enhanced when pleasant and arousing stimuli are introduced.”
The findings, published in the journal Experimental Psychology, show that music can be used as a method to enhance attention and memory.
Source: Northumbria University