Music as a Memory Enhancer in Healthy, Young Adults: An Event-Related Potential Investigation
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Research examining the effectiveness of musical mnemonics as a memory enhancer has thus far been limited and somewhat contradictory. The present study was designed to add to this growing literature by establishing the benefit of music for memory in young adults (Experiment 1) and also to investigate the neural correlates of this benefit using event-related potentials (ERPs; Experiment 2). In the current experiments, each participant listened to 100 novel sets of lyrics, fifty spoken and fifty sung recordings. Following this study phase, the participant was presented with 200 pictures and asked to make an old/new recognition judgement. The “old” pictures referenced the general content of sets of lyrics studied whereas the “new” pictures did not refer back to the content of any of the recordings. It was predicted that participants would have better discrimination for the pictures referring to the sung lyrics than for the pictures referring to the spoken lyrics. In Experiment 1, pictures referring to sung recordings showed a higher discrimination rate than pictures referring to the spoken recordings as predicted. The behavioral results from Experiment 2 contradicted those found in Experiment 1, in fact, discrimination performance for the pictures referring to sung lyrics was significantly lower than for the pictures referring to spoken lyrics. Additionally, the ERP findings did not show a difference between the sung and spoken stimuli. Taken together, the data from the experiments provide evidence that musical mnemonics can benefit memory in some cases although is potentially more limited than previously thought, therefore continued research is needed to better understand the mechanisms and limitations of this effect.