Classical Music and Literacy

From Web MD :

Sept. 24, 2007 — Learning music may help children’s communication skills more than studying phonics [emphasis added], according to a new study.

The study shows musical training enhances the same processing skills in the brain and nervous system that are needed for talking and reading because musicians use all of their senses to practice and perform music, such as watching other musicians, reading lips, feeling, and hearing the music.

Researchers say since music is more accessible to children than phonics, learning music may be a valuable aid in fostering literacy [emphasis added].

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 adults with varying levels of musical training wore electrodes to measure brain activity in response to watching and listening to audio and videotapes of a cellist performing and a person speaking.

The results showed that trained musicians had earlier and larger responses to both speech and music in the brain stem than nonmusicians [emphasis added].

Specifically, those with more years of musical training had better sound-encoding mechanisms in the brain stem, which are also necessary for speech and communication.

Music and Communication Skills

Researchers say years of multisensory training through learning music may improve these communication skills in the brain and foster better literacy [emphasis added].

“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,” says researcher Nina Kraus, communication sciences professor at Northwestern University, in a news release.

“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.”

Learning music was also linked to improvements in other communication and literacy skills [emphasis added], such as more accurate pitch coding (needed to recognize a speaker’s identity), emotional cues, and enhanced processing of timbre and timing cues common in speech and music.

mid-sagittal brain section, with lobes in different colors

A Mid-Sagittal Section Showing the Left Half of the Human Brain, Brainstem, Midbrain
Ralph Hutchings

Honestly, I don’t think any comment is necessary except: Where is the media in all this? Why aren’t they blasting this information to us every night on the news?

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