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Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev. 2005 Dec;4(4):235-61.

The effect of music on cognitive performance: insight from neurobiological and animal studies.

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School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Australia.


The past 50 years have seen numerous claims that music exposure enhances human cognitive performance. Critical evaluation of studies across a variety of contexts, however, reveals important methodological weaknesses. The current article argues that an interdisciplinary approach is required to advance this research. A case is made for the use of appropriate animal models to avoid many confounds associated with human music research. Although such research has validity limitations for humans, reductionist methodology enables a more controlled exploration of music's elementary effects. This article also explores candidate mechanisms for this putative effect. A review of neurobiological evidence from human and comparative animal studies confirms that musical stimuli modify autonomic and neurochemical arousal indices, and may also modify synaptic plasticity. It is proposed that understanding how music affects animals provides a valuable conjunct to human research and may be vital in uncovering how music might be used to enhance cognitive performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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