Testing the influence of musical expertise on novel word learning across the lifespan using a cross-sectional approach in children, young adults and older adults

  • Dittinger Eva
  • Scherer Johanna
  • Jäncke Lutz
  • Besson Mireille
  • Elmer Stefan

  • Musical expertise
  • Cognitive functions
  • Plasticity
  • Lexical-semantic access
  • EEG
  • Word learning

ART

Word learning is a multifaceted perceptual and cognitive task that is omnipresent in everyday life. Currently, it is unclear whether this ability is influenced by age, musical expertise or both variables. Accordingly, we used EEG and compared behavioral and electrophysiological indices of word learning between older adults with and without musical expertise (older adults' perspective) as well as between musically trained and untrained children , young adults, and older adults (lifespan perspective). Results of the older adults' perspective showed that the ability to learn new words is preserved in elderly, however, without a beneficial influence of musical expertise. Otherwise, results of the lifespan perspective revealed lower error rates and faster reaction times in young adults compared to children and older adults. Furthermore, musically trained children and young adults outperformed participants without musical expertise, and this advantage was accompanied by EEG manifestations reflecting faster learning and neural facilitation in accessing lexical-semantic representations.