Benefits of musical training on implicit memory and learning in healthy older adults and individuals with dementia
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AbstractAgeing is linked to a variety of health issues, but perhaps the most well documented feature of growing older is that it is associated with memory decline (Ward, Berry & Shanks, 2013). It is well established that explicit memory declines with age, with the rate of decline being an important predictor of the diagnosis of dementia (Ward et al., 2013). Implicit memory is involved in everyday tasks that, with practice, become largely automatic. The process of implicit learning is generally defined as the ability to acquire knowledge unconsciously. An effective way of improving health in older adults is through music. Making music is one of the essential skills that requires the use of implicit knowledge. Procedural learning is one type of implicit knowledge that focuses on the learning of a skill through repeated performance and practise. To become a professional musician takes years of skill training, for example, practising scales improves finger patterns in pianists, which over time becomes an implicit motor skill that helps with musical performance. Previous research that has looked at implicit memory in musicians, has focused on young adults and found that both musicians and non-musicians performed equally on implicit knowledge tasks (Bigand et al. 2001). This thesis aimed to look at whether musical training is associated with better performance in implicit memory in healthy older adults and individual with dementia. To do this implicit memory tasks including an adaptation of the Phoneme Monitoring Task (Bigand et al., 2001), Serial Reaction Time Task (Nissen & Bullemer, 1987) and The Word Completion tasks (Tulving, Schacter & Stark, 1982), were completed by healthy older adults and individuals with dementia both musicians and non-musicians. Overall, results showed that musicians, both older adults and individuals with dementia, performed better than non-musicians on procedural learning tasks (Serial Reaction Time Task) but there was no difference on implicit tasks such as priming. Although both musicians and non-musicians with dementia showed reaction times that would suggest procedural learning for repeated sequences, only musicians showed a significant difference between repeated and novel sequences, suggesting that musical training benefits procedural learning. Overall, both health older adult musicians and musicians with dementia performed faster than non-musicians on both the Serial Reaction Time Task and the Adapted Phoneme Monitoring task. However, results did not reach significance on the Adapted Phoneme Monitoring Task. The results suggest that musical training benefits procedural learning in musicians, which could have positive implications for future learning in older adults and individuals with dementia.
CitationThorpe, L. (2021). Benefits of musical training on implicit memory and learning in healthy older adults and individuals with dementia. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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