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Uplifting Music Can Enhance Cognitive Abilities

Uplifting Music Can Enhance Cognitive Abilities 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

Young woman using laptop while listening to music photo by shutterstock.

Uplifting Music Can Enhance Cognitive Abilities

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Uplifting Music Can Enhance Cognitive Abilities. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Mar 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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