A significant proportion of neuromusical research is conducted in Western countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. This is for several reasons; the technology that is used to conduct this research is extremely advanced and requires high levels of research funding; the expertise of the researchers need to conduct the research takes a commitment of decades of capacity building in the research field and; there is a significant interest in academic and social enhancements for children.
The location of neuromusical research tends to lend itself to the study of music learning through the Western Art Music genre. This has been useful when it comes to the ability to compare research study findings but not as useful when it comes to our understanding of the impact of non-Western Art Music genre on brain development.
In light of this, a study that focuses on a specific type of Indian singing, called Carnatic singing, is worth sharing. If you are not sure of the study of singing, you can listen to an example here.
The study compared 15 singers and 15 non-singers between the age of 16-30 years. The singer participated in formal Carnatic music training for 3-5 years and the researchers measured auditory working memory as a result of that music training.
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They found that “more than three years of Carnatic singing experience can enhance the neural coding to discriminate subtle differences leading to enhance working memory capacity.” If you know the style or listen to the video above, you will see how much working memory, that is short-term memory which is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing, would be challenged by this style of music-making.
Any challenging experience encourages the brain to work more effectively and therefore develops the specific area of the brain that is being challenged. What is interesting is, based on the social neuroscience of music model that was discussed in the July 2021 Professional Reading, it is also possible that through Carnatic singing people are also using their language and empathy networks which releasing dopamine and oxytocin which make us feel motivated and happy, as well as reduce stress through lowering cortisol levels.