The fulfillment of Stroop test with identification of spatial localization of stimuli in musicians and non-musicians

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A. G. Okhrei
T. V. Kutsenko
M. U. Makarchuk


Introduction. Musical training is known to have beneficial effect on human cognitive abilities, such as verbal memory, mathematical, visuospatial abilities and even IQ. But such an influence still remains arguable and unclear. Besides, the data regarding lateralization that occurs during “non-musical” cognitive tasks is not almost elucidated in scientific literature. In the present study we use Stroop test with a spatial localization of stimuli, the fulfilment of which requires significant cognitive resources (including voluntary attention) and allows to reveal motor asymmetry that occurs as a result of bimanual engagement.

Purpose. The aim of present research is to clarify the influence of musical experience on efficiency of fulfillment of Stroop test with spatial localization of stimuli and to find patterns of motor asymmetry that occur during such cognitive demanding task in musicians and non-musicians.

Methods. We recruited students of National Academy of Music (musicians; n=28) and their peers from Taras Shevchenko National University who had no previous musical experience (non-musicians; n=36). Participants underwent computerized Stroop test in which stimuli (words «ЗЕЛЕНЫЙ» meaning «green» and «КРАСНЫЙ» meaning «red») written with green or red color (regardless semantics) were displayed at the left or right side of the monitor one by one in pseudo-randomized order. Responses were given by right hand («P» key) and left hand («Q» key). If semantic meaning of the word coincided with color (answer «yes»), participants had to respond with a hand on side of which the word had emerged, but if not (answer «no») – with the opposite hand. Participants passed two subtests subsequently with a design described above. In the first subtest the minimal exposure time of stimuli was found (functional mobility of nervous processes (FRNP)). Participants started with 1500 ms of exposure and this time decreased subsequently with a step of 24 ms. The minimal exposure time was the time, that did not decrease during next 30 stimuli and herewith participants did more than 50% incorrect responses. The second one was subtest of productivity (P). 240 stimuli were presented to each participant. The exposure time of each stimulus was a sum of minimal exposure time, found before in the first subtest, plus 200 ms. We analyzed the minimal exposure time of stimuli, correct responses latency and the number of incorrect responses.

Results. Musicians unlike non-musicians reached significantly shorter exposure time of stimuli in the first subtest, thus pointing out to have higher FRNP and increased processing speed of stimuli. Besides, musicians had faster latency of correct responses of both hands than non-musicians. Right hand was faster than left one in answers «yes», but left hand was faster than right one in answers «no» in subjects of both groups. The number of incorrect responses didn’t differ between subjects of both groups.

Originality. It was found that prolonged musical training increase stimuli processing speed in musicians during complex cognitive tasks. 


Conclusion. Musicians have higher speed of stimuli processing during fulfillment of Stroop test with identification of spatial localization of stimuli. The efficiency of test fulfillment and general pattern of motor asymmetry seems not to be different between musicians and non-musicians.

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