Whether you willingly or begrudgingly took music lessons as a child, a note of thanks to your parents may be in order. Findings published this week in Nature Reviews Neuroscience show music training may prompt neurological connections that prime the brain for other aspects of human communication such as language, memory and speech.
In a data-driven review, Northwestern University researchers analyzed scientific literature from labs around the globe where scientists of varying viewpoints employ a range of research methods. They found that an active engagement with musical sounds enhances neuroplasticity and enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns so important to learning. According to a Northwestern University release:
Musicians are more successful than non-musicians in learning to incorporate sound patterns for a new language into words. Children who are musically trained show stronger neural activation to pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.
And musicians trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies are primed to understand speech in a noisy background. They exhibit both enhanced cognitive and sensory abilities that give them a distinct advantage for processing speech in challenging listening environments compared with non-musicians.
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