Learn Music to Boost Literacy in Kids?
Study Shows Musical Training May Enhance Communication Skills
Sept. 24, 2007 -- Learning music may help children’s communication skills
more than studying phonics, according to a new study.
The study shows musical training enhances the same processing skills in the
brain and nervous system that are needed for talking and reading because
musicians use all of their senses to practice and perform music, such as
watching other musicians, reading lips, feeling, and hearing the music.
Researchers say since music is more accessible to children than phonics,
learning music may be a valuable aid in fostering literacy.
In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 29 adults with varying levels of musical training wore electrodes
to measure brain activity in response to watching and listening to audio and
videotapes of a cellist performing and a person speaking.
The results showed that trained musicians had earlier and larger responses
to both speech and music in the brain stem than nonmusicians.
Specifically, those with more years of musical training had better
sound-encoding mechanisms in the brain stem, which are also necessary for
speech and communication.
Music and Communication Skills
Researchers say years of multisensory training through learning music may
improve these communication skills in the brain and foster better literacy.
"Audiovisual processing was much enhanced in musicians' brains compared
to non-musician counterparts, and musicians also were more sensitive to subtle
changes in both speech and music sounds," says researcher Nina Kraus,
communication sciences professor at Northwestern University, in a news
"Our study indicates that the high-level cognitive processing of music
affects automatic processing that occurs early in the processing stream and
fundamentally shapes sensory circuitry."
Learning music was also linked to improvements in other communication and
literacy skills, such as more accurate pitch coding (needed to recognize a
speaker’s identity), emotional cues, and enhanced processing of timbre and
timing cues common in speech and music.