LEARNING to play a musical instrument early in life could improve adult memory capacity, according to a Chinese University study released yesterday. The study involved 60 female students aged between 19 and 22. The 30 subjects who had at least six years' musical training before reaching the age of 12 performed much better in memory tests than the other 30 who had no musical training. Researchers assessed the women's verbal memory by testing how many Chinese words they could recall from a 16-word list read out to them three times. Visual memory was tested by asking the participants to draw newly seen objects. The tests revealed that subjects with musical training remembered significantly more words - 17 per cent - than those without. But there was no significant difference in performance in the visual test. 'Previous neuropsychological studies have shown that the left planum temporal region of the brain is larger in musicians than in non-musicians,' said Professor Agnes Chan Sui-yin, who conducted the study with two fellow students. 'Since verbal memory is mediated mainly by the left temporal lobe, adults with music training may therefore be found to have a better verbal memory than adults without such training.' Professor Chan said women were selected for the first study to give more specific and accurate data because there were differences in the neuropsychological development of males and females. She hopes the findings may lead to an effective treatment for amnesia patients.