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... Although the researchers did not randomly assign children to experimental and control groups, these results are consistent with earlier works that suggested some transfer effects between music and language (for a review see Trainor & Hannon, 2013). A more recent study also found transfer effects of early childhood music education into language abilities in 90 Canadian children aged 3-6 years (Hutchins, 2018), reinforcing the idea that there may be transfer effects between music learning and language. ...
In recent years, there has been an upsurge of research on music and the developing brain. As brain imaging technology becomes more sophisticated, neuroscientists have been able to gain many insights into the developing brain as it perceives and processes musical information. Yet, there is still a fair amount of “misunderstanding, misapprehension, and misapplication” (Croft J, Mind Brain Edu 5(1):5–11, p. 6, 2011) of neuroscientific research in the arts and humanities, as well as in education. In this chapter, we offer a critical review of neuromusical research conducted with children aged 0–8. The chapter is divided into four parts: (1) a brief description EEG and MRI, two brain and the main imaging techniques used with young children; (2) a review of imaging studies published in the past decade (2008–2018) concerning music and young children; (3) the main criticisms associated with the works, coming primarily from scholars in the humanities, arts, and education fields; (4) Implications for research and practice in early childhood.
... In the present sample, simple discrimination abilities were highest in those who had started music lessons before ages six and seven. Our finding of an AoS effect for simple pitch discrimination is supported by longitudinal studies showing that even short periods of music training during childhood can improve children's discrimination of simple tones and melodies [13,30], neural processing of musical sounds and pitches 31], and accuracy in singing a simple melody . This advantage for low-level pitch processing is likely a function of early maturation in the primary auditory cortex, in which there is a massive increase in the number of synapses and in myelination between ages one and five . ...
Studies with adult musicians show that beginning lessons before age seven is associated with better performance on musical tasks and enhancement in auditory and motor brain regions. It is hypothesized that early training interacts with periods of heightened neural development to promote greater plasticity and better learning and performance later in life. However, we do not know whether such effects can be observed in childhood. Moreover, we do not know the degree to which such effects are related to training, or whether early training has different effects on particular musical skills depending on their cognitive, perceptual or motor requirements. To address these questions, we compared groups of child musicians who had started lessons earlier or later on age-normed tests of rhythm synchronization and melody discrimination. We also matched for age, years of experience, working memory and global cognitive ability. Results showed that children who started early performed better on simple melody discrimination and that scores on this task were predicted by both age of start (AoS) and cognitive ability. There was no effect of AoS for the more complex rhythm or transposed melody tasks, but these scores were significantly predicted by working memory ability, and for transposed melodies, by hours of weekly practice. These findings provide the first evidence that earlier AoS for music training in childhood results in enhancement of specific musical skills. Integrating these results with those for adult musicians, we hypothesize that early training has an immediate impact on simple melody discrimination skills that develop early, while more complex abilities, like synchronization and transposition require both further maturation and additional training.
Children of immigrant families often have great difficulties with language and disadvantages in schooling. Phonological problems appear especially common. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine whether music training has a positive effect on the phonological awareness in these children. The effects of a music program were compared with an established phonological skills program and with a sports control group. Preschoolers of immigrants (19 boys, 20 girls) were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. All groups were trained three times a week for 20 min each, over a period of 14 weeks. Phonological awareness was tested prior to the beginning of the training and after the training phase. At the pre-test, no differences between the groups were found regarding phonological awareness and control variables (age, gender, intelligence, socioeconomic status, language background, music experience). At the post-test, the music group and the phonological skills group showed a significant increase in phonological awareness of large phonological units. The effect size of the music training was larger compared to the phonological skills program. In contrast, the sports control group showed no significant increase in phonological awareness. The current results indicate that a music program could be used as an additional opportunity to promote phonological skills in children of immigrant families.
Numerous arguments in the recent neuroscientific literature support the use of musical training as a therapeutic tool among the arsenal already available to therapists and educators for treating children with dyslexia. In the present study, we tested the efficacy of a specially-designed Cognitivo-Musical Training (CMT) protocol based upon three principles : 1- music-language analogies : training dyslexics with music could contribute to improve brain circuits which are common to music and language processes; 2 – the temporal and rhythmic features of music, which could exert a positive effect on the multiple dimensions of the “temporal deficit” characteristic of dyslexia; and 3- cross-modal integration, based on converging evidence of impaired connectivity in dyslexia and related disorders. Accordingly, we developed a series of musical exercises involving jointly and simultaneously sensory (visual, auditory, somatosensory) and motor systems, with special emphasis on rhythmic perception and production in addition to intensive training of various features of the musical auditory signal. Two separate studies were carried out, one in which dyslexic children received intensive musical exercises concentrated over 18 hours during three consecutive days, and the other in which the 18 hours of musical training were spread over six weeks. Both studies showed significant improvements in some untrained, linguistic and non-linguistic variables. The first one yielded significant improvement in categorial perception and auditory perception of temporal components of speech. The second study revealed additional improvements in auditory attention, phonological awareness (syllable fusion), reading abilities and repetition of pseudo-words. Importantly, most improvements persisted after an untrained period of 6 weeks. These results provide new additional arguments for using music as part of systematic therapeutic and instructional practice for dyslexic children.
Children's engagement in music practice is associated with enhancements in literacy-related language skills, as demonstrated by multiple reports of correlation across these two domains. Training studies have tested whether engaging in music training directly transfers benefit to children's literacy skill development. Results of such studies, however, are mixed. Interpretation of these mixed results is made more complex by the fact that a wide range of literacy-related outcome measures are used across these studies. Here, we address these challenges via a meta-analytic approach. A comprehensive literature review of peer-reviewed music training studies was built around key criteria needed to test the direct transfer hypothesis, including: (a) inclusion of music training vs. control groups; (b) inclusion of pre- vs. post-comparison measures, and (c) indication that reading instruction was held constant across groups. Thirteen studies were identified (n = 901). Two classes of outcome measures emerged with sufficient overlap to support meta-analysis: phonological awareness and reading fluency. Hours of training, age, and type of control intervention were examined as potential moderators. Results supported the hypothesis that music training leads to gains in phonological awareness skills. The effect isolated by contrasting gains in music training vs. gains in control was small relative to the large variance in these skills (d = 0.2). Interestingly, analyses revealed that transfer effects for rhyming skills tended to grow stronger with increased hours of training. In contrast, no significant aggregate transfer effect emerged for reading fluency measures, despite some studies reporting large training effects. The potential influence of other study design factors were considered, including intervention design, IQ, and SES. Results are discussed in the context of emerging findings that music training may enhance literacy development via changes in brain mechanisms that support both music and language cognition.
Recent findings have shown that people with higher musical aptitude were also better in oral language imitation tasks. However, whether singing capacity and instrument playing contribute differently to the imitation of speech has been ignored so far. Research has just recently started to understand that instrumentalists develop quite distinct skills when compared to vocalists. In the same vein the role of the vocal motor system in language acquisition processes has poorly been investigated as most investigations (neurobiological and behavioral) favor to examine speech perception. We set out to test whether the vocal motor system can influence an ability to learn, produce and perceive new languages by contrasting instrumentalists and vocalists. Therefore, we investigated 96 participants, 27 instrumentalists, 33 vocalists and 36 non-musicians/non-singers. They were tested for their abilities to imitate foreign speech: unknown language (Hindi), second language (English) and their musical aptitude. Results revealed that both instrumentalists and vocalists have a higher ability to imitate unintelligible speech and foreign accents than non-musicians/non-singers. Within the musician group, vocalists outperformed instrumentalists significantly.
First, adaptive plasticity for speech imitation is not reliant on audition alone but also on vocal-motor induced processes. Second, vocal flexibility of singers goes together with higher speech imitation aptitude. Third, vocal motor training, as of singers, may speed up foreign language acquisition processes.
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.
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 in 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 1,000 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 one 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 an instrumental training class. 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. These findings speak to the potential of active engagement with sound (i.e., music-making) to engender experience-dependent neuroplasticity during trand may inform the development of strategies for auditory learning.
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.
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.
Executive functions (EF) are cognitive capacities that allow for planned, controlled behavior and strongly correlate with academic abilities. Several extracurricular activities have been shown to improve EF, however, the relationship between musical training and EF remains unclear due to methodological limitations in previous studies. To explore this further, two experiments were performed; one with 30 adults with and without musical training and one with 27 musically trained and untrained children (matched for general cognitive abilities and socioeconomic variables) with a standardized EF battery. Furthermore, the neural correlates of EF skills in musically trained and untrained children were investigated using fMRI. Adult musicians compared to non-musicians showed enhanced performance on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and verbal fluency. Musically trained children showed enhanced performance on measures of verbal fluency and processing speed, and significantly greater activation in pre-SMA/SMA and right VLPFC during rule representation and task-switching compared to musically untrained children. Overall, musicians show enhanced performance on several constructs of EF, and musically trained children further show heightened brain activation in traditional EF regions during task-switching. These results support the working hypothesis that musical training may promote the development and maintenance of certain EF skills, which could mediate the previously reported links between musical training and enhanced cognitive skills and academic achievement.
This study investigated the relationship of both phonemic and musical sound discrimination to reading ability in children in their first year at school. Awareness to changes in pitch and timbre of musical stimuli was assessed using a specially designed test of musical ability. Tests of phonemic awareness and of reading performance were also administered, with particular emphasis on ability at employing phonic skills in reading. The results support the hypothesis that discrimination of musical sounds is related to reading performance, but reveal that the influential factor in this relationship is a specific awareness of pitch changes.
prior work indicates that listeners may be more likely to call a note in-tune when it is sung than when it is in another timbre. The current study seeks to confirm whether this vocal generosity effect generalizes to melodies. Musicians and nonmusicians listened to pairs of single tones and scale-based melodies performed with the voice or the violin. The final note was varied in how well it was tuned to the prior context, and for each example, listeners judged whether the final note was intune or not. A strong vocal generosity effect was found for musicians and nonmusicians in both melodic and single tone conditions – a higher degree of mistuning was necessary for listeners to decide that sung tones were out-of-tune compared with violin notes. These results confirm the role of timbre in tuning judgments, and help explain why singers are typically less well-tuned than instrumentalists in performance.
In previous research on speech imitation, musicality, and an ability to sing were isolated as the strongest indicators of good pronunciation skills in foreign languages. We, therefore, wanted to take a closer look at the nature of the ability to sing, which shares a common ground with the ability to imitate speech. This study focuses on whether good singing performance predicts good speech imitation. Forty-one singers of different levels of proficiency were selected for the study and their ability to sing, to imitate speech, their musical talent and working memory were tested. Results indicated that singing performance is a better indicator of the ability to imitate speech than the playing of a musical instrument. A multiple regression revealed that 64% of the speech imitation score variance could be explained by working memory together with educational background and singing performance. A second multiple regression showed that 66% of the speech imitation variance of completely unintelligible and unfamiliar language stimuli (Hindi) could be explained by working memory together with a singer's sense of rhythm and quality of voice. This supports the idea that both vocal behaviors have a common grounding in terms of vocal and motor flexibility, ontogenetic and phylogenetic development, neural orchestration and auditory memory with singing fitting better into the category of "speech" on the productive level and "music" on the acoustic level. As a result, good singers benefit from vocal and motor flexibility, productively and cognitively, in three ways. (1) Motor flexibility and the ability to sing improve language and musical function. (2) Good singers retain a certain plasticity and are open to new and unusual sound combinations during adulthood both perceptually and productively. (3) The ability to sing improves the memory span of the auditory working memory.
The voice is one of the most important media for communication, yet there is a wide range of abilities in both the perception and production of the voice. In this article, we review this range of abilities, focusing on pitch accuracy as a particularly informative case, and look at the factors underlying these abilities. Several classes of models have been posited describing the relationship between vocal perception and production, and we review the evidence for and against each class of model. We look at how the voice is different from other musical instruments and review evidence about both the association and the dissociation between vocal perception and production abilities. Finally, we introduce the Linked Dual Representation (LDR) model, a new approach which can account for the broad patterns in prior findings, including trends in the data which might seem to be countervailing. We discuss how this model interacts with higher-order cognition and examine its predictions about several aspects of vocal perception and production.
This study examined the second-language (L2) English abilities of musically trained and untrained primary school children. Participants were tested on the verbal subscales of the Malin’s Intelligence Scale for Indian Children (MISIC) and an English word-reading test. The musically trained participants performed significantly better on the tests of comprehension and vocabulary. This result is in line with the view that music and language share processing resources, as a result of which transfer of learning takes place. When the scores of participants with Indian Classical music training were compared with the scores of the untrained group, the comprehension and vocabulary advantage persisted, indicating that the L2 advantage was not simply an artefact of increased language familiarity that is likely to arise from Western music training.
This study presents the first experimental evidence that singing can facilitate short-term paired-associate phrase learning in an unfamiliar language (Hungarian). Sixty adult participants were randomly assigned to one of three "listen-and-repeat" learning conditions: speaking, rhythmic speaking, or singing. Participants in the singing condition showed superior overall performance on a collection of Hungarian language tests after a 15-min learning period, as compared with participants in the speaking and rhythmic speaking conditions. This superior performance was statistically significant (p < .05) for the two tests that required participants to recall and produce spoken Hungarian phrases. The differences in performance were not explained by potentially influencing factors such as age, gender, mood, phonological working memory ability, or musical ability and training. These results suggest that a "listen-and-sing" learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for spoken foreign language phrases.
Spontaneous motor tempo and rhythmical synchronisation were studied in 2½- to 4-year-old children. Children were tested in three sessions, each of which included three consecutive tasks: first, spontaneous manual tapping tempo, second, synchronisation to external tempo, followed by spontaneous manual tapping tempo again. Results showed that regular spontaneous manual tapping tempo could be observed in children as young as 2½ years. Moreover, children could slow down their tap rhythm when the auditory stimulation became slower. Anticipating sound and adjusting their motor response to time interval was easier for children at the age of 4 years than for younger children. Consequently, it seems easier for the former to estimate the time interval than for the latter. Data referring to different clock models and new perspectives to conduct research on temporal studies in child development will be discussed.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a music training program on children's phonological awareness and naming speed in Spanish. Participants were preschool children whose first language was either Spanish (n = 45) or Tamazight ( n = 52), a Berber dialect spoken in Morocco's Rif area. The two-year pretest/posttest study showed that the children who received phonological training with or without music performed significantly better in a naming speed posttest and a series of phonological processing tasks than those who did not participate in specialized training. The phonological training that included music activities was particularly effective for the development of phonological awareness of ending sounds and naming speed. The benefits of the training on children's phonological awareness and naming speed, two strong predictors of reading acquisition, were significant regardless of the native language of the children.
The term "tone deafness," commonly applied to poor-pitch singing, suggests that the cause lies in faulty perception. However, it is also plausible that problems lie in production, memory, and/or sensorimotor integration. We report the results of two experiments on vocal pitch imitation that addressed these possibilities. Participants listened to and then vocally imitated unfamiliar 4-note pitch sequences.Within each experiment, 10-15% of the participants imitated pitch at least one semitone off and were categorized as "poor-pitch singers." Such deviations were reliable across different pitch classes and therefore constitute transpositions. In addition, poor-pitch singers compressed the size of intervals during production. Poor-pitch singers did not differ from good singers in pitch discrimination accuracy, although they appeared to be hindered rather than helped by singing with correct accompaniment. Taken together, findings suggested that poor-pitch singing results from mismapping of pitch onto action, rather than problems specific to perceptual,motor, or memory systems.
Although most studies that examined associations between music training and cognitive abilities had correlational designs, the prevailing bias is that music training causes improve-ments in cognition. It is also possible, however, that high-functioning children are more likely than other children to take music lessons, and that they also differ in personality. We asked whether individual differences in cognition and personality predict who takes music lessons and for how long. The participants were 118 adults (Study 1) and 167 10-to 12-year-old children (Study 2). We collected demographic information and measured cog-nitive ability and the Big Five personality dimensions. As in previous research, cognitive ability was associated with musical involvement even when demographic variables were controlled statistically. Novel findings indicated that personality was associated with musi-cal involvement when demographics and cognitive ability were held constant, and that openness-to-experience was the personality dimension with the best predictive power. These findings reveal that: (1) individual differences influence who takes music lessons and for how long, (2) personality variables are at least as good as cognitive variables at pre-dicting music training, and (3) future correlational studies of links between music training and non-musical ability should account for individual differences in personality.
Psychophysiological evidence suggests that music and language are intimately coupled such that experience/training in one domain can influence processing required in the other domain. While the influence of music on language processing is now well-documented, evidence of language-to-music effects have yet to be firmly established. Here, using a cross-sectional design, we compared the performance of musicians to that of tone-language (Cantonese) speakers on tasks of auditory pitch acuity, music perception, and general cognitive ability (e.g., fluid intelligence, working memory). While musicians demonstrated superior performance on all auditory measures, comparable perceptual enhancements were observed for Cantonese participants, relative to English-speaking nonmusicians. These results provide evidence that tone-language background is associated with higher auditory perceptual performance for music listening. Musicians and Cantonese speakers also showed superior working memory capacity relative to nonmusician controls, suggesting that in addition to basic perceptual enhancements, tone-language background and music training might also be associated with enhanced general cognitive abilities. Our findings support the notion that tone language speakers and musically trained individuals have higher performance than English-speaking listeners for the perceptual-cognitive processing necessary for basic auditory as well as complex music perception. These results illustrate bidirectional influences between the domains of music and language.
Training during a sensitive period in development may have greater effects on brain structure and behavior than training later in life. Musicians are an excellent model for investigating sensitive periods because training starts early and can be quantified. Previous studies suggested that early training might be related to greater amounts of white matter in the corpus callosum, but did not control for length of training or identify behavioral correlates of structural change. The current study compared white-matter organization using diffusion tensor imaging in early-and late-trained musicians matched for years of training and experience. We found that early-trained musicians had greater connectivity in the posterior midbody/isthmus of the corpus callosum and that fractional anisotropy in this region was related to age of onset of training and sensorimotor synchronization performance. We propose that training before the age of 7 years results in changes in white-matter connectivity that may serve as a scaffold upon which ongoing experience can build.
Musical training has been shown to positively influence linguistic abilities. To follow the developmental dynamics of this transfer effect at the preattentive level, we conducted a longitudinal study over 2 school years with nonmusician children randomly assigned to music or to painting training. We recorded the mismatch negativity (MMN), a cortical correlate of preattentive mismatch detection, to syllables that differed in vowel frequency, vowel duration, and voice onset time (VOT), using a test-training-retest procedure and 3 times of testing: before training, after 6 months and after 12 months of training. While no between-group differences were found before training, enhanced preattentive processing of syllabic duration and VOT, as reflected by greater MMN amplitude, but not of frequency, was found after 12 months of training in the music group only. These results demonstrate neuroplasticity in the child brain and suggest that active musical training rather than innate predispositions for music yielded the improvements in musically trained children. These results also highlight the influence of musical training for duration perception in speech and for the development of phonological representations in normally developing children. They support the importance of music-based training programs for children's education and open new remediation strategies for children with language-based learning impairments.
Temporal characteristics of interlimb coordination were examined in adolescents and young adults with developmental dyslexia, matched normal control subjects, and matched learning disabled adolescent students without reading difficulties. Subjects were asked to tap in time to an entraining metronome at each of 3 prescribed rates by moving the index fingers of both hands in unison, in rhythmical alternation, or in more complex bimanual patterns. Dyslexic subjects showed significant deficits of timing precision on bimanual tasks that required the integration of asynchronous responses, but not when they moved the fingers in unison. Findings are discussed in terms of both the hypothesis that impaired temporal resolution in dyslexia reflects an underlying deficit of left-hemisphere function and an alternative hypothesis that functional deficits in developmental dyslexia are associated with impaired interhemispheric communication. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Researchers have designed training methods that can be used to improve mental health and to test the efficacy of education programs. However, few studies have demonstrated broad transfer from such training to performance on untrained cognitive activities. Here we report the effects of two interactive computerized training programs developed for preschool children: one for music and one for visual art. After only 20 days of training, only children in the music group exhibited enhanced performance on a measure of verbal intelligence, with 90% of the sample showing this improvement. These improvements in verbal intelligence were positively correlated with changes in functional brain plasticity during an executive-function task. Our findings demonstrate that transfer of a high-level cognitive skill is possible in early childhood.
Singing is a cultural universal and an important part of modern society, yet many people fail to sing in tune. Many possible causes have been posited to explain poor singing abilities; foremost among these are poor perceptual ability, poor motor control, and sensorimotor mapping errors. To help discriminate between these causes of poor singing, we conducted 5 experiments testing musicians and nonmusicians in pitch matching and judgment tasks. Experiment 1 introduces a new instrument called a slider, on which participants can match pitches without using their voice. Pitch matching on the slider can be directly compared with vocal pitch matching, and results showed that both musicians and nonmusicians were more accurate using the slider than their voices to match target pitches, arguing against a perceptual explanation of singing deficits. Experiment 2 added a self-matching condition and showed that nonmusicians were better at matching their own voice than a synthesized voice timbre, but were still not as accurate as on the slider. This suggests a timbral translation type of mapping error. Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrated that singers do not improve over multiple sung responses, or with the aid of a visual representation of pitch. Experiment 5 showed that listeners were more accurate at perceiving the pitch of the synthesized tones than actual voice tones. The pattern of results across experiments demonstrates multiple possible causes of poor singing, and attributes most of the problem to poor motor control and timbral-translation errors, rather than a purely perceptual deficit, as other studies have suggested.
Mounting evidence suggests that musical training benefits the neural encoding of speech. This paper offers a hypothesis specifying why such benefits occur. The "OPERA" hypothesis proposes that such benefits are driven by adaptive plasticity in speech-processing networks, and that this plasticity occurs when five conditions are met. These are: (1) Overlap: there is anatomical overlap in the brain networks that process an acoustic feature used in both music and speech (e.g., waveform periodicity, amplitude envelope), (2) Precision: music places higher demands on these shared networks than does speech, in terms of the precision of processing, (3) Emotion: the musical activities that engage this network elicit strong positive emotion, (4) Repetition: the musical activities that engage this network are frequently repeated, and (5) Attention: the musical activities that engage this network are associated with focused attention. According to the OPERA hypothesis, when these conditions are met neural plasticity drives the networks in question to function with higher precision than needed for ordinary speech communication. Yet since speech shares these networks with music, speech processing benefits. The OPERA hypothesis is used to account for the observed superior subcortical encoding of speech in musically trained individuals, and to suggest mechanisms by which musical training might improve linguistic reading abilities.
The aim of this study was to examine the influence of musical expertise in 9-year-old children on passive (as reflected by MMN) and active (as reflected by discrimination accuracy) processing of speech sounds. Musician and nonmusician children were presented with a sequence of syllables that included standards and deviants in vowel frequency, vowel duration, and VOT. Both the passive and the active processing of duration and VOT deviants were enhanced in musician compared with nonmusician children. Moreover, although no effect was found on the passive processing of frequency, active frequency discrimination was enhanced in musician children. These findings are discussed in terms of common processing of acoustic features in music and speech and of positive transfer of training from music to the more abstract phonological representations of speech units (syllables).
The present experiment investigated the effect of a music program on phonological awareness in preschoolers. In particular, the effects of a music program and a phonological skills program on phonological awareness were compared. If language and music share basic processing mechanisms, the effect of both programs on enhancing phonological awareness should be similar. Forty-one preschoolers (22 boys) were randomly assigned to a phonological skills program, a music program, and a control group that received sports training (from which no effect was expected). Preschoolers were trained for 10 min on a daily basis over a period of 20 weeks. In a pretest, no differences were found between the three groups in regard to age, gender, intelligence, socioeconomic status, and phonological awareness. Children in the phonological skills group and the music group showed significant increases in phonological awareness from pre- to post-test. The children in the sports group did not show a significant increase from pre- to post-test. The enhancement of phonological awareness was basically driven by positive effects of the music program and the phonological skills program on phonological awareness for large phonological units. The data suggests that phonological awareness can be trained with a phonological skills program as well as a music program. These results can be interpreted as evidence of a shared sound category learning mechanism for language and music at preschool age.
Language and music are complex cognitive and neural functions that rely on awareness of one's own sound productions. Information on the awareness of vocal pitch, and its relation to phonemic awareness which is crucial for learning to read, will be important for understanding the relationship between tone-deafness and developmental language disorders such as dyslexia. Here we show that phonemic awareness skills are positively correlated with pitch perception-production skills in children. Children between the ages of seven and nine were tested on pitch perception and production, phonemic awareness, and IQ. Results showed a significant positive correlation between pitch perception-production and phonemic awareness, suggesting that the relationship between musical and linguistic sound processing is intimately linked to awareness at the level of pitch and phonemes. Since tone-deafness is a pitch-related impairment and dyslexia is a deficit of phonemic awareness, we suggest that dyslexia and tone-deafness may have a shared and/or common neural basis.
Previous research has suggested a link between musical training and auditory
processing skills. Musicians have shown enhanced perception of auditory features
critical to both music and speech, suggesting that this link extends beyond basic
auditory processing. It remains unclear to what extent musicians who also have
dyslexia show these specialized abilities, considering often-observed persistent deficits
that coincide with reading impairments. The present study evaluated auditory
sequencing and speech discrimination in 52 adults comprised of musicians with
dyslexia, nonmusicians with dyslexia, and typical musicians. An auditory sequencing
task measuring perceptual acuity for tone sequences of increasing length was
administered. Furthermore, subjects were asked to discriminate three synthesized
syllable continua varying in acoustic components of speech necessary for intraphonemic
discrimination, which included spectral (formant frequency) and temporal
(voice onset time (VOT) and amplitude envelope) features. Results indicate that
musicians with dyslexia did not significantly differ from typical musicians and performed
better than nonmusicians with dyslexia for auditory sequencing as well as
discrimination of spectral and VOT cues within syllable continua. However, typical
musicians demonstrated superior performance relative to both groups with dyslexia for
discrimination of syllables varying in amplitude information. These findings suggest a
distinct profile of speech processing abilities in musicians with dyslexia, with specific
weaknesses in discerning amplitude cues within speech. Since these difficulties seem
to remain persistent in adults with dyslexia despite musical training, this study only
partly supports the potential for musical training to enhance auditory processing skills,
suggested to be important for literacy, in individuals with dyslexia.
Using in-vivo magnetic resonance morphometry it was investigated whether the midsagittal area of the corpus callosum (CC) would differ between 30 professional musicians and 30 age-, sex- and handedness-matched controls. Our analyses revealed that the anterior half of the CC was significantly larger in musicians. This difference was due to the larger anterior CC in the subgroup of musicians who had begun musical training before the age of 7. Since anatomic studies have provided evidence for a positive correlation between midsagittal callosal size and the number of fibers crossing through the CC, these data indicate a difference in interhemispheric communication and possibly in hemispheric (a)symmetry of sensorimotor areas. Our results are also compatible with plastic changes of components of the CC during a maturation period within the first decade of human life, similar to those observed in animal studies.
A growing body of research suggests that musical experience and ability are related to a variety of cognitive abilities, including executive functioning (EF). However, it is not yet clear if these relationships are limited to specific components of EF, limited to auditory tasks, or reflect very general cognitive advantages. This study investigated the existence and generality of the relationship between musical ability and EFs by evaluating the musical experience and ability of a large group of participants and investigating whether this predicts individual differences on three different components of EF - inhibition, updating, and switching - in both auditory and visual modalities. Musical ability predicted better performance on both auditory and visual updating tasks, even when controlling for a variety of potential confounds (age, handedness, bilingualism, and socio-economic status). However, musical ability was not clearly related to inhibitory control and was unrelated to switching performance. These data thus show that cognitive advantages associated with musical ability are not limited to auditory processes, but are limited to specific aspects of EF. This supports a process-specific (but modality-general) relationship between musical ability and non-musical aspects of cognition.
This study investigated whether musical training and bilingualism are associated with enhancements in specific components of executive function, namely, task switching and dual-task performance. Participants (n = 153) belonging to one of four groups (monolingual musician, bilingual musician, bilingual non-musician, or monolingual non-musician) were matched on age and socioeconomic status and administered task switching and dual-task paradigms. Results demonstrated reduced global and local switch costs in musicians compared with non-musicians, suggesting that musical training can contribute to increased efficiency in the ability to shift flexibly between mental sets. On dual-task performance, musicians also outperformed non-musicians. There was neither a cognitive advantage for bilinguals relative to monolinguals, nor an interaction between music and language to suggest additive effects of both types of experience. These findings demonstrate that long-term musical training is associated with improvements in task switching and dual-task performance.
This study considered a relation between rhythm perception skills and individual differences in phonological awareness and grammar abilities, which are two language skills crucial for academic achievement. Twenty-five typically developing 6-year-old children were given standardized assessments of rhythm perception, phonological awareness, morpho-syntactic competence, and non-verbal cognitive ability. Rhythm perception accounted for 48% of the variance in morpho-syntactic competence after controlling for non-verbal IQ, socioeconomic status, and prior musical activities. Children with higher phonological awareness scores were better able to discriminate complex rhythms than children with lower scores, but not after controlling for IQ. This study is the first to show a relation between rhythm perception skills and morpho-syntactic production in children with typical language development. These findings extend the literature showing substantial overlap of neurocognitive resources for processing music and language.
There is growing evidence that children with reading difficulties show impaired auditory rhythm perception and impairments in musical beat perception tasks. Rhythmic musical interventions with poorer readers may thus improve rhythmic entrainment and consequently improve reading and phonological skills. Here we compare the effects of a musical intervention for poor readers with a software intervention of known efficacy based on rhyme training and phoneme-grapheme learning. The research question was whether the musical intervention would produce gains of comparable effect sizes to the phoneme-grapheme intervention for children who were falling behind in reading development. Broadly, the two interventions had similar benefits for literacy, with large effect sizes.
the present study investigated whether the association between music lessons and intelligence is mediated by executive functions. Intelligence and five different executive functions (set shifting, selective attention, planning, inhibition, and fluency) were assessed in 9- to 12-year-old children with varying amounts of music lessons. Significant associations emerged between music lessons and all of the measures of executive function. Executive functions mediated the association between music lessons and intelligence, with the measures of selective attention and inhibition being the strongest contributors to the mediation effect. Our results suggest that at least part of the association between music lessons and intelligence is explained by the positive influence music lessons have on executive functions, which in turn improve performance on intelligence tests.
several reports have noted significant associations among phonological awareness, early reading skills, and music perception skills in young children. We examined whether music processing skills differentially predicted reading performance in a broad age range of 69 children with and without formal music training. Pitch perception was correlated with phonological awareness, a finding consistent with the hypothesis that basic auditory processing skills underlie the association between music and reading abilities. Nevertheless, the correlation between music skills and reading skills was affected by the presence of formal music training: pitch discrimination predicted reading ability only in children without formal music training. Studies examining the association between music perception and reading (and perhaps other cognitive domains as well) should not ignore the factor of music training.
A growing body of research suggests that musical training has a beneficial impact on speech processing (e.g., hearing of speech in noise and prosody perception). As this research moves forward two key questions need to be addressed: 1) Can purely instrumental musical training have such effects? 2) If so, how and why would such effects occur? The current paper offers a conceptual framework for understanding such effects based on mechanisms of neural plasticity. The expanded OPERA hypothesis proposes that when music and speech share sensory or cognitive processing mechanisms in the brain, and music places higher demands on these mechanisms than speech does, this sets the stage for musical training to enhance speech processing. When these higher demands are combined with the emotional rewards of music, the frequent repetition that musical training engenders, and the focused attention that it requires, neural plasticity is activated and makes lasting changes in brain structure and function which impact speech processing. Initial data from a new study motivated by the OPERA hypothesis is presented, focusing on the impact of musical training on speech perception in cochlear-implant users. Suggestions for the development of animal models to test OPERA are also presented, to help motivate neurophysiological studies of how auditory training using non-biological sounds can impact the brain's perceptual processing of species-specific vocalizations.
A small number of studies show that music training is associated with improvements in reading or in its component skills. A central question underlying this present research is whether musical activity can enhance the acquisition of reading skill, potentially before formal reading instruction begins. We explored two dimensions of this question: an investigation of links between kindergartners’ music rhythm skills and their phonological awareness in kindergarten and second grade; and an investigation of whether kindergartners who receive intensive musical training demonstrate more phonological skills than kindergartners who receive less. Results indicated that rhythm skill was related to phonological segmentation skill at the beginning of kindergarten, and that children who received more music training during kindergarten showed improvement in a wider range of phonological awareness skills at the end of kindergarten than children with less training. Further, kindergartners’ rhythm ability was strongly related to their phonological awareness and basic word identification skills in second grade. We argue that rhythm sensitivity is a pre-cursor skill to oral language acquisition, and that the ability to perceive and manipulate time intervals in sound streams may link performance of rhythm and phonological tasks.
Administered the PPVT—R to 29 1st–5th graders. Posttest administration of the PPVT—R and the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) was conducted 11 mo later. The 11-mo stability coefficient for the PPVT—R was .84, with no significant differences between the 2 administrations. The PPVT—R predicted PIAT subtest and Total Test performance to the following degrees: Spelling (.30), Reading Recognition (.54), Reading Comprehension (.58), Total Test (.59), General Information (.60), and Mathematics (.80). (5 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show for the first time that levels of musical expertise stepwise modulate higher order brain functioning. This suggests that degree of training intensity drives such cerebral plasticity. Participants (non-musicians, amateurs, and expert musicians) listened to a comprehensive set of specifically composed string quartets with hierarchically manipulated endings. In particular, we implemented 2 irregularities at musical closure that differed in salience but were both within the tonality of the piece (in-key). Behavioral sensitivity scores (d') of both transgressions perfectly separated participants according to their level of musical expertise. By contrasting brain responses to harmonic transgressions against regular endings, functional brain imaging data showed compelling evidence for stepwise modulation of brain responses by both violation strength and expertise level in a fronto-temporal network hosting universal functions of working memory and attention. Additional independent testing evidenced an advantage in visual working memory for the professionals, which could be predicted by musical training intensity. The here introduced findings of brain plasticity demonstrate the progressive impact of musical training on cognitive brain functions that may manifest well beyond the field of music processing.
In a recent study, we reported that the accurate perception of beat structure in music ('perception of musical meter') accounted for over 40% of the variance in single word reading in children with and without dyslexia (Huss et al., 2011). Performance in the musical task was most strongly associated with the auditory processing of rise time, even though beat structure was varied by manipulating the duration of the musical notes.
Here we administered the same musical task a year later to 88 children with and without dyslexia, and used new auditory processing measures to provide a more comprehensive picture of the auditory correlates of the beat structure task. We also measured reading comprehension and nonword reading in addition to single word reading.
One year later, the children with dyslexia performed more poorly in the musical task than younger children reading at the same level, indicating a severe perceptual deficit for musical beat patterns. They now also had significantly poorer perception of sound rise time than younger children. Longitudinal analyses showed that the musical beat structure task was a significant longitudinal predictor of development in reading, accounting for over half of the variance in reading comprehension along with a linguistic measure of phonological awareness.
The non-linguistic musical beat structure task is an important independent longitudinal and concurrent predictor of variance in reading attainment by children. The different longitudinal versus concurrent associations between musical beat perception and auditory processing suggest that individual differences in the perception of rhythmic timing are an important shared neural basis for individual differences in children in linguistic and musical processing.
Current research on the etiology ofdevelopmental dyslexia is generally informed byeither of two major hypotheses. One of theseassumes that the phonological processing ofconsonants and vowels at a segmental levelidentifies the core deficit in developmentaldyslexia and that it cannot be reduced todomain-general deficits of temporal informationprocessing. The other hypothesis holds thatphonological processing deficits aresymptomatic of an underlying, domain-generaldysfunction; and that at least some dyslexiasubtypes are causally related to domain generaldeficits of temporal information processing forauditory and visual stimuli. This report startsfrom the assumption that the terms temporal information processing andphonological processing as applied in currentdyslexia research, are frequently conflated. Further, it assumes that the conflated termsmust be decomposed into their concretebehavioral referents before the causalsignificance of either can be investigatedsystematically.The studies to be summarized in thisreport represents one step toward suchdecomposition. The findings indicated thatduring a motor sequencing task, dyslexicstudents anticipated the signal of anisochronic pacing metronome by intervals thatwere two or three times as long as those ofage matched normal readers or normal adults.These group differences were significant whenparticipants tapped with the preferred indexfinger alone or with both fingers in unison.Dyslexic students also took significantlylonger than normal readers did to recalibratetheir tapping responses when the metronome ratewas experimentally changed in the middle of atrial.In addition, dyslexic students, bycontrast to normal readers, had inordinatedifficulty reproducing simple motor rhythms byfinger tapping, and similar difficultyreproducing the appropriate speech rhythm oflinguistically neutral nonsense syllables.These difficulties were exaggerated whenparticipants had to synchronize theirperformance to an external pacing metronome.The implications of the findings for temporalinformation processing deficits on one hand,and impaired phonological processing on theother, are discussed.
A growing body of research suggests that cognitive functions, such as attention and memory, drive perception by tuning sensory mechanisms to relevant acoustic features. Long-term musical experience also modulates lower-level auditory function, although the mechanisms by which this occurs remain uncertain. In order to tease apart the mechanisms that drive perceptual enhancements in musicians, we posed the question: do well-developed cognitive abilities fine-tune auditory perception in a top-down fashion? We administered a standardized battery of perceptual and cognitive tests to adult musicians and non-musicians, including tasks either more or less susceptible to cognitive control (e.g., backward versus simultaneous masking) and more or less dependent on auditory or visual processing (e.g., auditory versus visual attention). Outcomes indicate lower perceptual thresholds in musicians specifically for auditory tasks that relate with cognitive abilities, such as backward masking and auditory attention. These enhancements were observed in the absence of group differences for the simultaneous masking and visual attention tasks. Our results suggest that long-term musical practice strengthens cognitive functions and that these functions benefit auditory skills. Musical training bolsters higher-level mechanisms that, when impaired, relate to language and literacy deficits. Thus, musical training may serve to lessen the impact of these deficits by strengthening the corticofugal system for hearing.
Age-related decline in auditory perception reflects changes in the peripheral and central auditory systems. These age-related changes include a reduced ability to detect minute spectral and temporal details in an auditory signal, which contributes to a decreased ability to understand speech in noisy environments. Given that musical training in young adults has been shown to improve these auditory abilities, we investigated the possibility that musicians experience less age-related decline in auditory perception. To test this hypothesis we measured auditory processing abilities in lifelong musicians (N = 74) and nonmusicians (N = 89), aged between 18 and 91. Musicians demonstrated less age-related decline in some auditory tasks (i.e., gap detection and speech in noise), and had a lifelong advantage in others (i.e., mistuned harmonic detection). Importantly, the rate of age-related decline in hearing sensitivity, as measured by pure-tone thresholds, was similar between both groups, demonstrating that musicians experience less age-related decline in central auditory processing.
Behavioral and neurophysiological transfer effects from music experience to language processing are well-established but it is currently unclear whether or not linguistic expertise (e.g., speaking a tone language) benefits music-related processing and its perception. Here, we compare brainstem responses of English-speaking musicians/non-musicians and native speakers of Mandarin Chinese elicited by tuned and detuned musical chords, to determine if enhancements in subcortical processing translate to improvements in the perceptual discrimination of musical pitch. Relative to non-musicians, both musicians and Chinese had stronger brainstem representation of the defining pitches of musical sequences. In contrast, two behavioral pitch discrimination tasks revealed that neither Chinese nor non-musicians were able to discriminate subtle changes in musical pitch with the same accuracy as musicians. Pooled across all listeners, brainstem magnitudes predicted behavioral pitch discrimination performance but considering each group individually, only musicians showed connections between neural and behavioral measures. No brain-behavior correlations were found for tone language speakers or non-musicians. These findings point to a dissociation between subcortical neurophysiological processing and behavioral measures of pitch perception in Chinese listeners. We infer that sensory-level enhancement of musical pitch information yields cognitive-level perceptual benefits only when that information is behaviorally relevant to the listener.