Research News

GSE research aims to further understanding of link between music and cognition

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published January 29, 2018

“There are glimpses — soft evidence — that music in the early educational environment may lead to more appreciation of music as adults. And it may trigger processes related to other learning. ”
Elisabeth Etopio, clinical assistant professor
Graduate School of Education

A UB interdisciplinary research team is exploring infants’ ability to recognize and prefer certain types of music to further understand the relationship between musical exposure and cognitive processes.

This preliminary research is underway in UB’s Neurocognition Science Laboratory, the same UB lab attracting national attention for its work in the educational possibilities of virtual reality.

“This study actually confirms the application of the work we’re doing with virtual reality,” says Elisabeth Etopio, clinical assistant professor and assistant dean of teacher education in UB’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is leading the infant and music study with Richard L. Lamb, GSE associate professor and director of the Neurocognition Science Laboratory, and Mandy Seccia, a PhD student in GSE’s Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning Program.

“We’re trying to observe a baby’s behavioral cues in terms of their facial expressions, fine and gross motor movements, and vocalizations, says Etopio. “We interpret each of those behaviors in certain ways as it relates to the infant’s music development. For example, we interpret movement after a song as the child wanting more music, as in ‘I really, really like this. Do it again.’

“And in this study, we have some preliminary neurological evidence that the behavioral interpretations we have made are closely aligned.”

The research, which takes place on the floor where Etopio sings and repeats rhythms to babies, has caught the interest of the interdisciplinary research team because of its potential to lead to other ways to stimulate the brain.

“Music and the arts make us better people and society a better place,” Etopio says. ‘There are glimpses — soft evidence — that music in the early educational environment may lead to more appreciation of music as adults.