The Enhancing Cognitive Effects of Musicianship and Bilingualism: Differences Within and Across Bimodal Tasks of Attention and Time Perception.
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Abstract Background: Previous studies have shown cognitive enhancement effects of well-practiced experiences that involve executive cognition, such as musical and language abilities (e.g. Bialystok and DePape, 2009). Aims: The present study aims to investigate whether there is a difference in the enhancement of executive processing between monolingual-musicians and bilinguals, and what the effects may be for people with intensive musical experience as well as linguistic experience, and confidence in two or more languages. A battery of attentional and temporal attentional tasks, as well as duration discrimination and temporal comparison tasks were administered. Methods: There were a total of 73 participants taking part in the study, based on their music and language abilities the participants were divided into four groups: Bilinguals, Monolingual-Musicians, Bilingual-Musicians and one control group consisting of monolingual non-musicians. The groups were compared on four different executive functioning tasks, all involving sustained and selective attention, response suppression and duration estimation, looking at performance for both auditory and visual stimuli. Results: The results suggest a positive effect of musicianship across all tasks, except the last temporal comparison tasks. Bilinguals performed comparatively poorly, and there was a suggestive effect of bilingualism being at a disadvantage for the tasks involved in the study, as the Bilingual-Musicians did not show any potential enhancement effect of performance based on language experience, whereas musicianship had a clear additive effect on pitch discrimination. Conclusion: Even though musicians were found to perform better on all tasks, this does not necessarily suggest modularity-specificity, but could be generalized enhanced cognitive phenomena originating from original cognitive differences, e.g. a better working memory, that does not relate to musicianship per se. The results also suggest that bilinguals might have low response inhibitory control, as opposed to conceptual control, which could relate to misperception of time.