Executive function, visual attention and the cocktail party problem in musicians and non-musicians
Clayton, Kameron K.
Patel, Aniruddh D.
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Citation (published version)Kameron K Clayton, Jayaganesh Swaminathan, Arash Yazdanbakhsh, Jennifer Zuk, Aniruddh D Patel, Gerald Kidd. 2016. "Executive Function, Visual Attention and the Cocktail Party Problem in Musicians and Non-Musicians." PLOS ONE, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp. ? - ? (17). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157638
The goal of this study was to investigate how cognitive factors influence performance in a multi-talker, “cocktail-party” like environment in musicians and non-musicians. This was achieved by relating performance in a spatial hearing task to cognitive processing abilities assessed using measures of executive function (EF) and visual attention in musicians and non-musicians. For the spatial hearing task, a speech target was presented simultaneously with two intelligible speech maskers that were either colocated with the target (0° azimuth) or were symmetrically separated from the target in azimuth (at ±15°). EF assessment included measures of cognitive flexibility, inhibition control and auditory working memory. Selective attention was assessed in the visual domain using a multiple object tracking task (MOT). For the MOT task, the observers were required to track target dots (n = 1,2,3,4,5) in the presence of interfering distractor dots. Musicians performed significantly better than non-musicians in the spatial hearing task. For the EF measures, musicians showed better performance on measures of auditory working memory compared to non-musicians. Furthermore, across all individuals, a significant correlation was observed between performance on the spatial hearing task and measures of auditory working memory. This result suggests that individual differences in performance in a cocktail party-like environment may depend in part on cognitive factors such as auditory working memory. Performance in the MOT task did not differ between groups. However, across all individuals, a significant correlation was found between performance in the MOT and spatial hearing tasks. A stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that musicianship and performance on the MOT task significantly predicted performance on the spatial hearing task. Overall, these findings confirm the relationship between musicianship and cognitive factors including domain-general selective attention and working memory in solving the “cocktail party problem”.
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