A recent broadcast at National Public Radio features an interesting study presented at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
Operating on the theory that musician’s brains are more finely tuned to process sound, the study tested classically trained violinists and pianists.
While musician’s hearing may not be necessarily better than average non-musicians, they have better auditory concentration. The researchers found that the musician’s brains were much better adapted to discern subtle pitch and tonal differences in sound.
Applying this knowledge to language development, another study presented at the same conference suggested that musical training might help children struggling with language skills.
Researcher Dana Strait, a doctoral candidate and former oboist…
… asked musicians and nonmusicians to take a simple test.
“They were asked to click a button every time they heard a specific sound,” she says, “but not click a button to other sounds that they might hear.”
Musicians not only responded faster and more accurately; they were able to stay focused longer, Strait says.
In contrast, many children with dyslexia and other language problems do poorly on tests like this. Musical training could offer a way to improve their performance, Strait says.
“Musical experience can change how our brain interacts with sounds,” she says. “It’s almost like the brain is better able to pay attention to sound and [to] better extract meaning from sound.”
To musical therapists these findings are probably old news, but it is nice to hear it get some verification from neuroscience research.
Listen to the entire NPR story: