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Music Training Helps Gets People Talking

It affects brain to enhance verbal skills, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Music hath charms to improve a person's speech, a new study suggests.

Music training's effects on the nervous system's ability to process sight and sound may do more to help enhance a person's verbal skills than even phonics, explained researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois.

They found that music training enhances the same communication skills needed for reading and speaking.

The study included people with varying amounts of musical training or none at all. The researchers used scalp electrodes to measure the participants' multi-sensory brain responses to audio and video of a person speaking and then of a cellist playing music.

The number of years that a person had practiced music was strongly associated with enhanced "basic sound encoding mechanisms" that are also associated with speech, the study found.

"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," Nina Kraus, a professor of communication sciences and neurobiology and director of the university's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said in a prepared statement.

"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," Kraus said.

The study was published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about voice, speech and language.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, Sept. 24, 2007

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