Speech and Music Link in Brain Proven

Today’s study comes from Musacchia G, Sams M, Skoe E, and Kraus N:

Musical training is known to modify cortical organization. Here, we show that such modifications extend to subcortical sensory structures and generalize to processing of speech. Musicians had earlier and larger brainstem responses than nonmusician controls to both speech and music stimuli presented in auditory and audiovisual conditions, evident as early as 10 ms after acoustic onset. Phase-locking to stimulus periodicity, which likely underlies perception of pitch, was enhanced in musicians and strongly correlated with length of musical practice. In addition, viewing videos of speech (lip-reading) and music (instrument being played) enhanced temporal and frequency encoding in the auditory brainstem, particularly in musicians. These findings demonstrate practice-related changes in the early sensory encoding of auditory and audiovisual information.

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of this research, which is why I encourage you to read the entire abstract given above (normally I emphasize the important parts for you). But here we see that the organizational properties of the brain are modified even at the brainstem level–the area of the brain that controls our most basic functions—by music lessons.

Drawing of human head in blue, brain in green, brainstem in orange and yellow

Brainstem, Artwork
Roger Harris

There is no question about this: musical training benefits the brain!

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