Nina Kraus

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States

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Publications (290)913.33 Total impact

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    Adam T Tierney · Jennifer Krizman · Nina Kraus
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    ABSTRACT: Fundamental changes in brain structure and function during adolescence are well-characterized, but the extent to which experience modulates adolescent neurodevelopment is not. Musical experience provides an ideal case for examining this question because the influence of music training begun early in life is well-known. We investigated the effects of in-school music training, previously shown to enhance auditory skills, versus another in-school training program that did not focus on development of auditory skills (active control). We tested adolescents on neural responses to sound and language skills before they entered high school (pretraining) and again 3 y later. Here, we show that in-school music training begun in high school prolongs the stability of subcortical sound processing and accelerates maturation of cortical auditory responses. Although phonological processing improved in both the music training and active control groups, the enhancement was greater in adolescents who underwent music training. Thus, music training initiated as late as adolescence can enhance neural processing of sound and confer benefits for language skills. These results establish the potential for experience-driven brain plasticity during adolescence and demonstrate that in-school programs can engender these changes.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2015; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1505114112 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Nina Kraus · Travis White-Schwoch
    Hearing Journal 07/2015; 68(7):30. DOI:10.1097/01.HJ.0000469513.46804.cf
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    ABSTRACT: Learning to read is a fundamental developmental milestone, and achieving reading competency has lifelong consequences. Although literacy development proceeds smoothly for many children, a subset struggle with this learning process, creating a need to identify reliable biomarkers of a child's future literacy that could facilitate early diagnosis and access to crucial early interventions. Neural markers of reading skills have been identified in school-aged children and adults; many pertain to the precision of information processing in noise, but it is unknown whether these markers are present in pre-reading children. Here, in a series of experiments in 112 children (ages 3-14 y), we show brain-behavior relationships between the integrity of the neural coding of speech in noise and phonology. We harness these findings into a predictive model of preliteracy, revealing that a 30-min neurophysiological assessment predicts performance on multiple pre-reading tests and, one year later, predicts preschoolers' performance across multiple domains of emergent literacy. This same neural coding model predicts literacy and diagnosis of a learning disability in school-aged children. These findings offer new insight into the biological constraints on preliteracy during early childhood, suggesting that neural processing of consonants in noise is fundamental for language and reading development. Pragmatically, these findings open doors to early identification of children at risk for language learning problems; this early identification may in turn facilitate access to early interventions that could prevent a life spent struggling to read.
    PLoS Biology 07/2015; 13(7):e1002196. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002196 · 11.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rhythmic entrainment, or beat synchronization, provides an opportunity to understand how multiple systems operate together to integrate sensory-motor information. Also, synchronization is an essential component of musical performance that may be enhanced through musical training. Investigations of rhythmic entrainment have revealed a developmental trajectory across the lifespan, showing synchronization improves with age and musical experience. Here, we explore the development and maintenance of synchronization in childhood through older adulthood in a large cohort of participants (N = 145), and also ask how it may be altered by musical experience. We employed a uniform assessment of beat synchronization for all participants and compared performance developmentally and between individuals with and without musical experience. We show that the ability to consistently tap along to a beat improves with age into adulthood, yet in older adulthood tapping performance becomes more variable. Also, from childhood into young adulthood, individuals are able to tap increasingly close to the beat (i.e., asynchronies decline with age), however, this trend reverses from younger into older adulthood. There is a positive association between proportion of life spent playing music and tapping performance, which suggests a link between musical experience and auditory-motor integration. These results are broadly consistent with previous investigations into the development of beat synchronization across the lifespan, and thus complement existing studies and present new insights offered by a different, large cross-sectional sample.
    PLoS ONE 06/2015; 10(6):e0128839. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0128839 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Early childhood is a critical period of auditory learning, during which children are constantly mapping sounds to meaning. But learning rarely occurs under ideal listening conditions-children are forced to listen against a relentless din. This background noise degrades the neural coding of these critical sounds, in turn interfering with auditory learning. Despite the importance of robust and reliable auditory processing during early childhood, little is known about the neurophysiology underlying speech processing in children so young. To better understand the physiological constraints these adverse listening scenarios impose on speech sound coding during early childhood, auditory-neurophysiological responses were elicited to a consonant-vowel syllable in quiet and background noise in a cohort of typically-developing preschoolers (ages 3-5 yr). Overall, responses were degraded in noise: they were smaller, less stable across trials, slower, and there was poorer coding of spectral content and the temporal envelope. These effects were exacerbated in response to the consonant transition relative to the vowel, suggesting that the neural coding of spectrotemporally-dynamic speech features is more tenuous in noise than the coding of static features-even in children this young. Neural coding of speech temporal fine structure, however, was more resilient to the addition of background noise than coding of temporal envelope information. Taken together, these results demonstrate that noise places a neurophysiological constraint on speech processing during early childhood by causing a breakdown in neural processing of speech acoustics. These results may explain why some listeners have inordinate difficulties understanding speech in noise. Speech-elicited auditory-neurophysiological responses offer objective insight into listening skills during early childhood by reflecting the integrity of neural coding in quiet and noise; this paper documents typical response properties in this age group. These normative metrics may be useful clinically to evaluate auditory processing difficulties during early childhood. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Hearing research 06/2015; 328. DOI:10.1016/j.heares.2015.06.009 · 2.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have evaluated representation of the fundamental frequency (F0) in the frequency following response (FFR) of infants, but the development of other aspects of the FFR, such as timing and harmonics, has not yet been examined. Here, FFRs were recorded to a speech syllable in 28 infants, ages three to ten months. The F0 amplitude of the response was variable among individuals but was strongly represented in some infants as young as three months of age. The harmonics, however, showed a systematic increase in amplitude with age. In the time domain, onset, offset, and inter-peak latencies decreased with age. These results are consistent with neurophysiological studies indicating that (1) phase locking to lower frequency sounds emerges earlier in life than phase locking to higher frequency sounds and (2) myelination continues to increase in the first year of life. Early representation of low frequencies may reflect greater exposure to low frequency stimulation in utero. The improvement in temporal precision likely parallels an increase in the efficiency of neural transmission accompanied by exposure to speech during the first year of life.
    The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 06/2015; 137(6):3346. DOI:10.1121/1.4921032 · 1.56 Impact Factor
  • Music Perception 06/2015; 32(5):445. DOI:10.1525/mp.2015.32.5.445 · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    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; 291. 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
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    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; 42(1). DOI:10.1111/ejn.12931 · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Nina Kraus · Dana L. Strait
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    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
  • Nina Kraus · Samira Anderson
    Hearing Journal 03/2015; 68(3). DOI:10.1097/01.HJ.0000462430.33997.43
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    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
  • Yun Nan · Erika Skoe · Trent Nicol · Nina Kraus
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    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
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    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
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    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:10.1097/01.HJ.0000459742.94251.cc
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    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
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    Erika Skoe · Nina Kraus
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    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
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    Adam Tierney · Nina Kraus
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    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

Publication Stats

11k Citations
913.33 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1991–2015
    • Northwestern University
      • • Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
      • • Department of Neurobiology
      Evanston, Illinois, United States
  • 1983–2009
    • University of Chicago
      • Department of Pediatrics
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 1985–1990
    • Saint Michael's Medical Center
      Newark, New Jersey, United States