Musical training in childhood makes for better listeners later in life
Washington, August 22 (ANI): Practicing music for only few years in childhood may help improve brain functions in adulthood particularly when it comes to listening and the complex processing of sound, according to a new Northwestern University study.
The impact of music on the brain has been a hot topic in science in the past decade. Now Northwestern researchers for the first time have directly examined what happens after children stop playing a musical instrument after only a few years-a common childhood experience.
Compared to peers with no musical training, adults with one to five years of musical training as children had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds, making them more effective at pulling out the fundamental frequency of the sound signal.
The fundamental frequency, which is the lowest frequency in sound, is crucial for speech and music perception, allowing recognition of sounds in complex and noisy auditory environments.
"Thus, musical training as children makes better listeners later in life," said Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern.
"Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain," she said, "the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning."
A running theme in Kraus' research is "your past shapes your present."
"The way you hear sound today is dictated by the experiences with sound you've had up until today. This new finding is a clear embodiment of this theme," she said.
In past research, Kraus and her team examined how bilingual upbringing and long-term music lessons affect the auditory brain and how the brain changes after a few weeks of intensive auditory experiences, such as computerized training. Their current research is investigating the impact of socio-economic hardships on adolescent brain function.
"We hope to use this new finding, in combination with past discoveries, to understand the type of education and remediation strategies, such as music classes and auditory-based training that might be most effective in combating the negative impact of poverty," she said.
By understanding the brain's capacity to change and then maintain these changes, the research can inform the development of effective and long-lasting auditory-based educational and rehabilitative programs.
The study will be published in the Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)
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