Visual-spatial sequence learning and memory in trained musicians

Esperanza M. Anaya, David Pisoni, William Kronenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that musicians have enhanced visual-spatial abilities and sensory-motor skills. As a result of their long-term musical training and their experience-dependent activities, musicians may learn to associate sensory information with fine motor movements. Playing a musical instrument requires musicians to rapidly translate musical symbols into specific sensory-motor actions while also simultaneously monitoring the auditory signals produced by their instrument. In this study, we assessed the visual-spatial sequence learning and memory abilities of long-term musicians. We recruited 24 highly trained musicians and 24 nonmusicians, individuals with little or no musical training experience. Participants completed a visual-spatial sequence learning task as well as receptive vocabulary, nonverbal reasoning, and short-term memory tasks. Results revealed that musicians have enhanced visual-spatial sequence learning abilities relative to nonmusicians. Musicians also performed better than nonmusicians on the vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning measures. Additional analyses revealed that the large group difference observed on the visual-spatial sequencing task between musicians and nonmusicians remained even after controlling for vocabulary, nonverbal reasoning, and short-term memory abilities. Musicians' improved visual-spatial sequence learning may stem from basic underlying differences in visual-spatial and sensory-motor skills resulting from long-term experience and activities associated with playing a musical instrument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-21
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • auditory perception/cognition
  • memory
  • recall
  • sensori-motor skills
  • spatial abilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Music

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