The Influence of Music on Prefrontal Cortex during Episodic Encoding and Retrieval of Verbal Information: A Multichannel fNIRS Study


Music can be thought of as a complex stimulus able to enrich the encoding of an event thus boosting its subsequent retrieval. However, several findings suggest that music can also interfere with memory performance. A better understanding of the behavioral and neural processes involved can substantially improve knowledge and shed new light on the most efficient music-based interventions. Based on fNIRS studies on music, episodic encoding, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), this work aims to extend previous findings by monitoring the entire lateral PFC during both encoding and retrieval of verbal material. Nineteen participants were asked to encode lists of words presented with either background music or silence and subsequently tested during a free recall task. Meanwhile, their PFC was monitored using a 48-channel fNIRS system. Behavioral results showed greater chunking of words under the music condition, suggesting the employment of associative strategies for items encoded with music. fNIRS results showed that music provided a less demanding way of modulating both episodic encoding and retrieval, with a general prefrontal decreased activity under the music versus silence condition. This suggests that music-related memory processes rely on specific neural mechanisms and that music can positively influence both episodic encoding and retrieval of verbal information.

Behavioural Neurology