A recent study at Northwestern University by Gabriella Musacchia, Mikko Sams, Erika Skoe and Nina Kraus demonstrates that music training “may be even more important for enhancing verbal communication skills than learning phonics.” Musicians incorporate all of their senses while practicing or performing music. This is done by watching other musicians, reading lips, and feeling, hearing, and performing music during the music-making process. This same multi-sensory process of music training enhances the same communication skills needed for speaking and reading.
Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, where the work was performed, is quoted as saying, “Audiovisual processing was much enhanced in musicians’ brains compared to non-musician counterparts, and musicians also were more sensitive to subtle changes in both speech and music sounds. Our study indicates that the high-level cognitive processing of music affects automatic processing that occurs early in the processing stream and fundamentally shapes sensory circuitry.”
According to Gabriella Musacchia, lead author of the study and doctoral student at Northwestern University, musicians develop a “specialized neural system for processing sight and sound in the brainstem, the neural gateway to the brain.” The brainstem has long been thought of as simply a relay switchboard for sensory input from the ear to the cortex, which is an area known for cognitive processing. The brainstem, however, also offers a shared pathway for both music and speech, which suggests the possibility that musical training could help children with their literacy skills and possibly even fight literacy disorders.
The number of years that a person practiced music directly correlated to enhanced basic sound encoding mechanisms that were also relevant to speech. It also revealed that musicians develop “super-accurate” pitch coding which enable them to better recognize a speaker’s identity and emotional intent as well as decipher and interpret timbre and time cues common to both speech and music.
Quote: “The study underscores the extreme malleability of auditory function by music training and the potential of music to tune our neural response to the world around us, ” Kraus said.
In earlier studies, it had been demonstrated that some children with literacy disorders showed transcription errors in the brainstem. Since children are often more likely to have accessibility to music at an earlier age rather than phonics, “music training may have considerable benefits for engendering literacy skills.”
So, mom and dad, you may have enrolled your child in our Kindermusik classes thinking that this would provide a musical environment for your child to experience, grow, and develop an appreciation for music at an early age, or you may chosen Kindermusik to provide an opportunity for your child to be with other children the same age. You may have enrolled simply to enjoy having time together – just the two of you.
Now, you can also pat yourself on the back, because, at the same time you’re dancing around our classroom, bloop-ing like Little Fish and his Dad, you are also creating and fostering literacy skills in your child that will last a lifetime!
To read the article in its entirety, please visit here.
Many thanks to Lori Burkhardt for sharing this information with us!