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Neuroscientist: Think twice about cutting music in schools
Date:2/20/2010

fidelity with which they can access the transformation of the sound waves into brain waves in individual people is a powerful new development.

The neural enhancements seen in individuals with musical training is not just an amplifying or volume knob effect," says Kraus. "Individuals with music training show a selective fine-tuning of relevant aspects of auditory signals."

By comparing brain responses to predictable versus variable sound sequences, Kraus and her colleagues found that an effective or well-tuned sensory system takes advantage of stimulus regularities, such as the sound patterns that distinguish a teacher's voice from competing sounds in a noisy classroom.

They previously found that the ability of the nervous system to utilize acoustic patterns correlates with reading ability and the ability to hear speech in noise. Now they have discovered that the effectiveness of the nervous system to utilize sound patterns is linked to musical ability.

"Playing music engages the ability to extract relevant patterns, such as the sound of one's own instrument, harmonies and rhythms, from the 'soundscape,'" Kraus says. "Not surprisingly, musicians' nervous systems are more effective at utilizing the patterns in music and speech alike."

Studies in Kraus' laboratory indicate that music -- a high-order cognitive process -- affects automatic processing that occurs early in the processing stream. "The brainstem, an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain, is modified by our experience with sound," says Kraus. "Now we know that music can fundamentally shape our subcortical sensory circuitry in ways that may enhance everyday tasks, including reading and listening in noise."

At 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, Kraus will present "Cognitive-Sensory Interaction in the Neural Encoding of Music and Speech" as part of a panel on music-language interactions in the brain at the annual meeting of the American Association for
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Contact: Nina Kraus
nkraus@northwestern.edu
847-602-6052
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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