Musical aptitude relates to reading ability

October 17, 2011, BioMed Central

Auditory working memory and attention, for example the ability to hear and then remember instructions while completing a task, are a necessary part of musical ability. But musical ability is also related to verbal memory and literacy in childhood. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions shows how auditory working memory and musical aptitude are intrinsically related to reading ability, and provides a biological basis for this link.

Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University tested children on their ability to read and to recognize words. This was compared to the extent of their auditory working memory (remembering a sequence of numbers and then being able to quote them in reverse), and musical aptitude (both melody and rhythm). The electrical activity within the children's brains was also measured as auditory brainstem responses to rhythmic, or random, sounds based on speech.

The team lead by Dr Nina Kraus found that poor readers had reduced neural response (auditory brainstem activity) to rhythmic rather than random sounds compared to good readers. In fact the level of neural enhancement to acoustic regularities correlated with reading ability as well as musical aptitude. The musical ability test, specifically the rhythm aspect, was also related to reading ability. Similarly a good score on the auditory related to better reading and to the rhythm aspect of musical ability.

Dr Kraus explained, "Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced within the auditory brainstem. Structural equation modeling of the data revealed that music skill, together with how the nervous system responds to regularities in auditory input and auditory memory/attention accounts for about 40% of the difference in reading ability between children. These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training."

Explore further: Musical experience offsets some aging effects

More information: Subcortical processing of speech regularities predicts reading and music aptitude in children, Dana L Strait, Jane Hornickel and Nina Kraus, Behavioral and Brain Functions (in press)

Related Stories

Musical experience offsets some aging effects

May 11, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A growing body of research finds musical training gives students learning advantages in the classroom. Now a Northwestern University study finds musical training can benefit Grandma, too, by offsetting ...

Taking up music so you can hear

August 17, 2009
Anyone with an MP3 device -- just about every man, woman and child on the planet today, it seems -- has a notion of the majesty of music, of the primal place it holds in the human imagination.

Neuroscientist: Think twice about cutting music in schools

February 21, 2010
At a press briefing today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, a Northwestern University neuroscientist will argue that music training has profound effects that shape the sensory system ...

Genetic loci assigned for musical aptitude in Finnish families

May 19, 2008
Researchers from Finland and USA have identified one major and several potential loci associated with musical aptitude in the human genome. The results raise an interesting question about common evolutionary background of ...

How noise and nervous system get in way of reading skills

July 13, 2009
A child's brain has to work overtime in a noisy classroom to do its typical but very important job of distinguishing sounds whose subtle differences are key to success with language and reading.

Turn On, Tune In, Develop? Researchers Examine How Brain Benefits From Musical Training

November 6, 2009
For most people music is an enjoyable, although momentary, form of entertainment. But for those who seriously practiced a musical instrument when they were young, perhaps when they played in a school orchestra or even a rock ...

Recommended for you

Even toddlers weigh risks, rewards when making choices

September 21, 2018
Every day, adults conduct cost-benefit analyses in some form for decisions large and small, economic and personal: Bring a lunch or go out? Buy or rent? Remain single or start a family? All are balances of risk and reward.

Early warning sign of psychosis detected

September 21, 2018
Brains of people at risk of psychosis exhibit a pattern that can help predict whether they will go on to develop full-fledged schizophrenia, a new Yale-led study shows. The findings could help doctors begin early intervention ...

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction

September 20, 2018
If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

In depression the brain region for stress control is larger

September 20, 2018
Although depression is one of the leading psychiatric disorders in Germany, its cause remains unclear. A recent study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, Germany, found ...

American girls read and write better than boys

September 20, 2018
As early as the fourth grade, girls perform better than boys on standardized tests in reading and writing, and as they get older that achievement gap widens even more, according to research published by the American Psychological ...

Mindfulness meditation: 10 minutes a day improves cognitive function

September 19, 2018
Practising mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes a day improves concentration and the ability to keep information active in one's mind, a function known as "working memory". The brain achieves this by becoming more efficient, ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
5 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2011
The open access paper can be found here as a provisional PDF
http://www.behavi...abstract

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.