Nina Kraus

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States

Are you Nina Kraus?

Claim your profile

Publications (280)878.18 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Music training may strengthen auditory skills that help children not only in musical performance but in everyday communication. Comparisons of musicians and non-musicians across the lifespan have provided some evidence for a "musician advantage" in understanding speech in noise, although reports have had mixed outcomes. Controlled longitudinal studies are essential to disentangle effects of training from pre-existing differences, and to determine how much music training is necessary to confer benefits. We followed a cohort of elementary school children for two years, assessing their ability to perceive speech in noise before and after musical training. After an initial assessment, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group began music training right away and completed two years of training, while the second group waited a year and then received one year of music training. Outcomes provide the first longitudinal evidence that speech-in-noise perception improves after two years of group music training. The children were enrolled in an established and successful community-based music program and followed the standard curriculum, therefore these findings provide an important link between laboratory-based research and real-world assessment of the impact of music training on everyday communication skills. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Behavioural brain research 05/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2015.05.026 · 3.39 Impact Factor
  • Nina Kraus, Samira Anderson
    Hearing Journal 05/2015; 68(5):38. DOI:10.1097/01.HJ.0000465739.25721.26
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Congenital amusia is a neurogenetic condition, characterized by a deficit in music perception and production, not explained by hearing loss, brain damage or lack of exposure to music. Despite inferior musical performance, amusics exhibit normal auditory cortical responses, with abnormal neural correlates suggested to lie beyond auditory cortices. Here we show, using auditory brainstem responses to complex sounds in humans, that fine-grained automatic processing of sounds is impoverished in amusia. Compared to matched non-musician controls, spectral amplitude was decreased in amusics for higher harmonic components of the auditory brainstem response. We also found a delayed response to the early transient aspects of the auditory stimulus in amusics. Neural measures of spectral amplitude and response timing correlated with participants' behavioral assessments of music processing. We demonstrate, for the first time, that amusia affects how complex acoustic signals are processed in the auditory brainstem. This neural signature of amusia mirrors what is observed in musicians, such that the aspects of the auditory brainstem responses that are enhanced in musicians are degraded in amusics. By showing that gradients of music abilities are reflected in the auditory brainstem, our findings have implications not only for current models of amusia but also for auditory functioning in general. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 04/2015; DOI:10.1111/ejn.12931 · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Nina Kraus, Dana L. Strait
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Musician children and adults demonstrate biological distinctions in auditory processing relative to nonmusicians. For example, musician children and adults have more robust neural encoding of speech harmonics, more adaptive sound processing, and more precise neural encoding of acoustically similar sounds; these enhancements may contribute to musicians' linguistic advantages, such as for hearing speech in noise and reading. Such findings have inspired proposals that the auditory and cognitive stimulation induced by musical practice renders musicians enhanced according to biological metrics germane to communication. Cross-sectional methodologies comparing musicians with nonmusicians, however, are limited by the inability to disentangle training-related effects from demographic and innate qualities that may predistinguish musicians. Over the past several years, our laboratory has addressed this problem by examining the emergence of neural markers of musicianship in children and adolescents using longitudinal approaches to track the development of biological indices of speech processing. This work was conducted in partnership with successful community-based music programs, thus avoiding reliance on a synthetic program for the purposes of laboratory study. Outcomes indicate that many of musicians' auditory-related biological enhancements emerge with training and may promote the acquisition of language skills, including in at-risk populations. © 2014 New York Academy of Sciences.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 03/2015; 1337(1). DOI:10.1111/nyas.12631 · 4.31 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Considerable attention has been devoted to understanding development of the auditory system during the first few years of life, yet comparatively little is known about maturation during adolescence. Moreover, the few studies investigating auditory system maturation in late childhood have employed a cross-sectional approach. To better understand auditory development in adolescence, we used a longitudinal design to measure the subcortical encoding of speech syllables in 74 adolescents at four time points from ages 14 through 17. We find a developmental decrease in the spectral representation of the evoking syllable, trial-by-trial response consistency, and tracking of the amplitude envelope, while timing of the evoked response appears to be stable over this age range. Subcortical auditory development is a protracted process that continues throughout the first two decades of life. Specifically, our data suggest that adolescence represents a transitional point between the enhanced response during childhood and the mature, though smaller, response of adults. That the auditory brainstem has not fully matured by the end of adolescence suggests that auditory enrichment begun later in childhood could lead to enhancements in auditory processing and alter developmental profiles. Copyright © 2015 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Clinical neurophysiology: official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 02/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.clinph.2015.01.026 · 2.98 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Differentiating between voices is a basic social skill humans acquire early in life. The current study aimed to understand the subcortical mechanisms of voice processing by focusing on the two most important acoustical voice features: the fundamental frequency (F0) and harmonics. We measured frequency following responses in a group of young adults to a naturally produced speech syllable under two linguistic contexts: same-syllable and multiple-syllable. Compared to the same-syllable context, the multiple-syllable context contained more speech cues to aid voice processing. We analyzed the magnitude of the response to the F0 and harmonics between same-talker and multiple-talker conditions within each linguistic context. Results establish that the human auditory brainstem is sensitive to different talkers as shown by enhanced harmonic responses under the multiple-talker compared to the same-talker condition, when the stimulus stream contained multiple syllables. This study thus provides the first electrophysiological evidence of the auditory brainstem's sensitivity to human voices. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 01/2015; 95(3). DOI:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2014.12.013 · 2.65 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Selective attention decreases trial-to-trial variability in cortical auditory-evoked activity. This effect increases over the course of maturation, potentially reflecting the gradual development of selective attention and inhibitory control. Work in adults indicates that music training may alter the development of this neural response characteristic, especially over brain regions associated with executive control: in adult musicians, attention decreases variability in auditory-evoked responses recorded over prefrontal cortex to a greater extent than in nonmusicians. We aimed to determine whether this musician-associated effect emerges during childhood, when selective attention and inhibitory control are under development. We compared cortical auditory-evoked variability to attended and ignored speech streams in musicians and nonmusicians across three age groups: preschoolers, school-aged children and young adults. Results reveal that childhood music training is associated with reduced auditory-evoked response variability recorded over prefrontal cortex during selective auditory attention in school-aged child and adult musicians. Preschoolers, on the other hand, demonstrate no impact of selective attention on cortical response variability and no musician distinctions. This finding is consistent with the gradual emergence of attention during this period and suggests no pre-existing differences in this attention-related cortical metric between children who undergo music training from those who do not.
    Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 01/2015; 110. DOI:10.1016/j.dcn.2015.01.001 · 3.71 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Click-evoked auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) are a valuable tool for probing auditory system function and development. Although it has long been thought that the human auditory brainstem is fully mature by age 2 yr, recent evidence indicates a prolonged developmental trajectory. The purpose of this study was to determine the time course of ABR maturation in a preschool population and fill a gap in the knowledge of development. Using a cross-sectional design, we investigated the effect of age on absolute latencies, interwave latencies, and amplitudes (waves I, III, V) of the click-evoked ABR. A total of 71 preschoolers (ages 3.12-4.99 yr) participated in the study. All had normal peripheral auditory function and IQ. ABRs to a rarefaction click stimulus presented at 31/sec and 80 dB SPL (73 dB nHL) were recorded monaurally using clinically-standard recording and filtering procedures while the participant sat watching a movie. Absolute latencies, interwave latencies, and amplitudes were then correlated to age. Developmental changes were restricted to absolute latencies. Wave V latency decreased significantly with age, whereas wave I and III latencies remained stable, even in this restricted age range. The ABR does not remain static after age 2 yr, as seen by a systematic decrease in wave V latency between ages 3 and 5 yr. This finding suggests that the human brainstem has a continued developmental time course during the preschool years. Latency changes in the age 3-5 yr range should be considered when using ABRs as a metric of hearing health. American Academy of Audiology.
    Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 01/2015; 26(1):30-5. DOI:10.3766/jaaa.26.1.4 · 1.59 Impact Factor
  • Nina Kraus, Samira Anderson
    Hearing Journal 01/2015; 68(1):38. DOI:10.1097/
  • Nina Kraus, Samira Anderson
    Hearing Journal 01/2015; 68(3). DOI:10.1097/01.HJ.0000462430.33997.43
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often face impoverished auditory environments, such as greater exposure to ambient noise and fewer opportunities to participate in complex language interactions during development. These circumstances increase their risk for academic failure and dropout. Given the academic and neural benefits associated with musicianship, music training may be one method for providing auditory enrichment to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. We followed a group of primary-school students from gang reduction zones in Los Angeles, CA, USA for 2 years as they participated in Harmony Project. By providing free community music instruction for disadvantaged children, Harmony Project promotes the healthy development of children as learners, the development of children as ambassadors of peace and understanding, and the development of stronger communities. Children who were more engaged in the music program-as defined by better attendance and classroom participation-developed stronger brain encoding of speech after 2 years than their less-engaged peers in the program. Additionally, children who were more engaged in the program showed increases in reading scores, while those less engaged did not show improvements. The neural gains accompanying music engagement were seen in the very measures of neural speech processing that are weaker in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our results suggest that community music programs such as Harmony Project provide a form of auditory enrichment that counteracts some of the biological adversities of growing up in poverty, and can further support community-based interventions aimed at improving child health and wellness.
    Frontiers in Psychology 12/2014; 5:1403. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01403 · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Erika Skoe, Nina Kraus
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Musical training during childhood has been linked to more robust encoding of sound later in life. We take this as evidence for an auditory reserve: a mechanism by which individuals capitalize on earlier life experiences to promote auditory processing. We assert that early auditory experiences guide how the reserve develops and is maintained over the lifetime. Experiences that occur after childhood, or which are limited in nature, are theorized to affect the reserve, although their influence on sensory processing may be less long-lasting and may potentially fade over time if not repeated. This auditory reserve may help to explain individual differences in how individuals cope with auditory impoverishment or loss of sensorineural function.
    12/2014; 4(4):575-593. DOI:10.3390/brainsci4040575
  • Source
    Adam Tierney, Nina Kraus
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Phonological skills are enhanced by music training, but the mechanisms enabling this cross-domain enhancement remain unknown. To explain this cross-domain transfer, we propose a precise auditory timing hypothesis (PATH) whereby entrainment practice is the core mechanism underlying enhanced phonological abilities in musicians. Both rhythmic synchronization and language skills such as consonant discrimination, detection of word and phrase boundaries, and conversational turn-taking rely on the perception of extremely fine-grained timing details in sound. Auditory-motor timing is an acoustic feature which meets all five of the pre-conditions necessary for cross-domain enhancement to occur (Patel, 2011, 2012, 2014). There is overlap between the neural networks that process timing in the context of both music and language. Entrainment to music demands more precise timing sensitivity than does language processing. Moreover, auditory-motor timing integration captures the emotion of the trainee, is repeatedly practiced, and demands focused attention. The PATH predicts that musical training emphasizing entrainment will be particularly effective in enhancing phonological skills.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11/2014; 8:949. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00949 · 2.90 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds tend to fall progressively further behind their higher-income peers over the course of their academic careers. Music training has been associated with enhanced language and learning skills, suggesting that music programs could play a role in helping low-income children to stay on track academically. Using a controlled, longitudinal design, the impact of group music instruction on English reading ability was assessed in 42 low-income Spanish-English bilingual children aged 6-9 years in Los Angeles. After one year, children who received music training retained their age-normed level of reading performance while a matched control group's performance deteriorated, consistent with expected declines in this population. While the extent of change is modest, outcomes nonetheless provide evidence that music programs may have value in helping to counteract the negative effects of low-socioeconomic status on child literacy development.
    PLoS ONE 11/2014; 9(11):e113383. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0113383 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Language experience fine-tunes how the auditory system processes sound. Bilinguals, relative to monolinguals, have more robust evoked responses to speech that manifest as stronger neural encoding of the fundamental frequency (F0) and greater across-trial consistency. However, it is unknown whether such enhancements increase with increasing second language experience. We predict that F0 amplitude and neural consistency scale with dual-language experience during childhood, such that more years of bilingual experience leads to more robust F0 encoding and greater neural consistency. To test this hypothesis, we recorded auditory brainstem responses to the synthesized syllables ‘ba’ and ‘ga’ in two groups of bilingual children who were matched for age at test (8.4 ± 0.67 years) but differed in their age of second language acquisition. One group learned English and Spanish simultaneously from birth (n = 13), while the second group learned the two languages sequentially (n = 15), spending on average their first four years as monolingual Spanish speakers. We find that simultaneous bilinguals have a larger F0 response to ‘ba’ and ‘ga’ and a more consistent response to ‘ba’ compared to sequential bilinguals and we demonstrate that these neural enhancements track with years of bilingual experience. These findings support the notion that bilingualism enhances subcortical auditory processing.
    Neuroscience Letters 11/2014; 585. DOI:10.1016/j.neulet.2014.11.011 · 2.06 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The young nervous system is primed for sensory learning, facilitating the acquisition of language and communication skills. Social and linguistic impoverishment can limit these learning opportunities, eventually leading to language-related challenges such as poor reading. Music training offers a promising auditory learning strategy by directing attention to meaningful acoustic elements of the soundscape. In light of evidence that music training improves auditory skills and their neural substrates, there are increasing efforts to enact community-based programs to provide music instruction to at-risk children. Harmony Project is a community foundation that has provided free music instruction to over 1000 children from Los Angeles gang-reduction zones over the past decade. We conducted an independent evaluation of biological effects of participating in Harmony Project by following a cohort of children for 1 year. Here we focus on a comparison between students who actively engaged with sound through instrumental music training vs. students who took music appreciation classes. All children began with an introductory music appreciation class, but midway through the year half of the children transitioned to the instrumental training. After the year of training, the children who actively engaged with sound through instrumental music training had faster and more robust neural processing of speech than the children who stayed in the music appreciation class, observed in neural responses to a speech sound /d/. The neurophysiological measures found to be enhanced in the instrumentally-trained children have been previously linked to reading ability, suggesting a gain in neural processes important for literacy stemming from active auditory learning. Despite intrinsic constraints on our study imposed by a community setting, these findings speak to the potential of active engagement with sound (i.e., music-making) to engender experience-dependent neuroplasticity and may inform the development of strategies for auditory learning.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 11/2014; 8:351. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2014.00351
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Temporal cues are important for discerning word boundaries and syllable segments in speech; their perception facilitates language acquisition and development. Beat synchronization and neural encoding of speech reflect precision in processing temporal cues and have been linked to reading skills. In poor readers, diminished neural precision may contribute to rhythmic and phonological deficits. Here we establish links between beat synchronization and speech processing in children who have not yet begun to read: preschoolers who can entrain to an external beat have more faithful neural encoding of temporal modulations in speech and score higher on tests of early language skills. In summary, we propose precise neural encoding of temporal modulations as a key mechanism underlying reading acquisition. Because beat synchronization abilities emerge at an early age, these findings may inform strategies for early detection of and intervention for language-based learning disabilities.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2014; 111(40). DOI:10.1073/pnas.1406219111 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Musicians are often reported to have enhanced neurophysiological functions, especially in the auditory system. Musical training is thought to improve nervous system function by focusing attention on meaningful acoustic cues, and these improvements in auditory processing cascade to language and cognitive skills. Correlational studies have reported musician enhancements in a variety of populations across the life span. In light of these reports, educators are considering the potential for co-curricular music programs to provide auditory-cognitive enrichment to children during critical developmental years. To date, however, no studies have evaluated biological changes following participation in existing, successful music education programs. We used a randomized control design to investigate whether community music participation induces a tangible change in auditory processing. The community music training was a longstanding and successful program that provides free music instruction to children from underserved backgrounds who stand at high risk for learning and social problems. Children who completed 2 years of music training had a stronger neurophysiological distinction of stop consonants, a neural mechanism linked to reading and language skills. One year of training was insufficient to elicit changes in nervous system function; beyond 1 year, however, greater amounts of instrumental music training were associated with larger gains in neural processing. We therefore provide the first direct evidence that community music programs enhance the neural processing of speech in at-risk children, suggesting that active and repeated engagement with sound changes neural function.
    The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 09/2014; 34(36):11913-8. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1881-14.2014 · 6.75 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The potential for short-term training to improve cognitive and sensory function in older adults has captured the public's interest. Initial results have been promising. For example, eight weeks of auditory-based cognitive training decreases peak latencies and peak variability in neural responses to speech presented in a background of noise and instills gains in speed of processing, speech-in-noise recognition, and short-term memory in older adults. But while previous studies have demonstrated short-term plasticity in older adults, we must consider the long-term maintenance of training gains. To evaluate training maintenance, we invited participants from an earlier training study to return for follow-up testing six months after the completion of training. We found that improvements in response peak timing to speech in noise and speed of processing were maintained, but the participants did not maintain speech-in-noise recognition or memory gains. Future studies should consider factors that are important for training maintenance, including the nature of the training, compliance with the training schedule, and the need for booster sessions after the completion of primary training.
    Neuropsychologia 09/2014; 62. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.07.034 · 3.45 Impact Factor
  • Adam Tierney, Nina Kraus
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The neural resonance theory of musical meter explains musical beat tracking as the result of entrainment of neural oscillations to the beat frequency and its higher harmonics. This theory has gained empirical support from experiments using simple, abstract stimuli. However, to date there has been no empirical evidence for a role of neural entrainment in the perception of the beat of ecologically valid music. Here we presented participants with a single pop song with a superimposed bassoon sound. This stimulus was either lined up with the beat of the music or shifted away from the beat by 25% of the average interbeat interval. Both conditions elicited a neural response at the beat frequency. However, although the on-the-beat condition elicited a clear response at the first harmonic of the beat, this frequency was absent in the neural response to the off-the-beat condition. These results support a role for neural entrainment in tracking the metrical structure of real music and show that neural meter tracking can be disrupted by the presentation of contradictory rhythmic cues.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 08/2014; 27(2):1-9. DOI:10.1162/jocn_a_00704 · 4.69 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

10k Citations
878.18 Total Impact Points


  • 1991–2015
    • Northwestern University
      • • Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
      • • Department of Neurobiology
      Evanston, Illinois, United States
  • 1982–2009
    • University of Chicago
      • Department of Pediatrics
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 2005
    • University of Oregon
      • Department of Psychology
      Eugene, OR, United States
  • 2003
    • Medical College of Wisconsin
      • Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences
      Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 1985–1990
    • Saint Michael's Medical Center
      Newark, New Jersey, United States
    • Northern Illinois University
      • Department of Psychology
      Декалб, Illinois, United States