Music can boost language skills

Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:46am EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Learning to play a musical instrument can change your brain, with a U.S. review finding music training can lead to improved speech and foreign language skills.

Although it has been suggested in the past that listening to Mozart or other classical music could make you smarter, there has been little evidence to show that music boosts brain power.

But a data-driven review by Northwestern University has pulled together research that links musical training to learning that spills over into skills including language, speech, memory, attention and even vocal emotion.

Researcher Nina Kraus said the data strongly suggested that the neural connections made during musical training also primed the brain for other aspects of human communication.

"The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development," the researchers said in their study.

Kraus said learning musical sounds could enhance the brain's ability to adapt and change and also enable the nervous system to provide a scaffolding of patterns that are important to learning.

The study, published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, looked at the explosion of research in recent years focused on the effects of music training on the nervous system which could have strong implications for education.

The study found that playing an instrument primes the brain to choose what is relevant in a complex process that may involve reading or remembering a score, timing issues and coordination with other musicians.

"A musician's brain selectively enhances information-bearing elements in sound," Kraus said in a statement. "In a beautiful interrelationship between sensory and cognitive processes, the nervous system makes associations between complex sounds and what they mean."   Continued...

 
<p>A man plays the saxophone in New York's Central Park October 12, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>