Nav: Home

Why musical training benefits us in processing speech

December 04, 2017

Musical training is associated with various cognitive improvements and pervasive plasticity in human brains. Among its merits, musical training is thought to enhance the cognitive and neurobiological foundation of speech processing,

particularly in challenging listening environments, such as in a noisy restaurant. However, the brain mechanisms supporting any such potential advantages related to speech perception are not well specified.

A brain imaging study by Dr. DU Yi from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and her collaborator Dr. Zatorre Robert from the Montréal Neurological Institute and McGill University has revealed that musical training might improve speech perception in noisy environments via enhanced neural foundation in bottom-up auditory encoding, top-down speech motoric prediction, and cross-modal auditory-motor integration.

This study entitled "Musical training sharpens and bonds ears and tongue to hear speech better" has just been published online in PNAS and highlighted in the front session of the journal called "In This Issue".

The study analyzed brain activity measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, all on average 21-22 years of age, as they identified speech syllables against changing levels of background noise.

The musicians had started their musical education before age seven and accumulated at least 10 years of musical training. They had practiced consistently (?3 times per week) over the past three years. The two groups showed no difference in their hearing level, education, auditory working memory or non-verbal IQ.

While the two groups performed equally under a no-noise condition, the musicians outperformed non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs). This ability was associated with enhanced activation of the left inferior frontal and right auditory regions in the musicians' brains.

Additional analysis revealed that neural patterns related to phonemes, which compose syllables, were more distinct in the bilateral auditory regions and speech production-related frontal motor regions of the musicians' brains, as compared with non-musicians (Figure ).

Moreover, musical training strengthened the functional connectivity of the auditory-motor network, which scaled with better behavioral performance.

The finding that musical training sharpens and bonds ears (the auditory system) and lips/tongue (the speech motor system) so that individuals can hear speech better is important.

It not only deepens our understandings of the neural mechanisms underlying musical training-related plasticity in processing speech, but also suggests great potential for musical training programs in alleviating speech perception difficulties commonly observed in aging populations and related to hearing disorders.
-end-
This research was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Thousand Young Talent Plan, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as well as an infrastructure grant from the Canada Fund for Innovation.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

Related Musical Training Articles:

Study shows some infants can identify differences in musical tones at six months
New research from neuroscientists at York University suggests the capacity to hear the highs and lows, also known as the major and minor notes in music, may come before you take a single lesson; you may actually be born with it.
Musical rhythm has very deep evolutionary roots and is present in some animals
The musical motives of a song emerge from the temporal arrangement of discrete tones.
Eurovision voting points to more than just musical tastes
Although this year's Eurovision Song Contest has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, academics from the University of Stirling and University of Glasgow have revealed interesting patterns from previous years' public votes.
Can 3D-printing musical instruments produce better sound than traditional instruments?
Music is an art, but it is also a science involving vibrating reeds and strings, sound waves and resonances.
United in musical diversity
Is music really a 'universal language'? Two articles in the most recent issue of Science support the idea that music all around the globe shares important commonalities, despite many differences.
Musical perception: nature or nurture?
This is the subject of the research by Juan Manuel Toro (ICREA) and Carlota Pagès Portabella, researchers at the Center for Brain and Cognition, published in the journal Psychophysiology as part of a H2020 project being carried out with Fundació Bial to understand the neuronal bases of musical cognition.
Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly
MIT researchers have invented an algorithm that produces a real-time portamento effect, gliding a note at one pitch into a note of another pitch, between any two audio signals, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice.
Perception of musical pitch varies across cultures
Unlike US residents, people in a remote area of the Bolivian rain forest usually do not perceive the similarities between two versions of the same note played at different registers, an octave apart.
Music students do better in school than non-musical peers
High school students who take music courses score significantly better on math, science and English exams than their non-musical peers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
Music students score better in math, science, English than non-musical peers
High schoolers who take music courses score significantly better on exams in certain other subjects, including math and science, than their non-musical peers, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.
More Musical Training News and Musical Training Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.