“[The findings] suggest that a music intervention that strengthens the basic auditory music perception skills of children with dyslexia may also remediate some of their language deficits,” Schlaug said.

Schlaug reports that tone-deaf individuals often have a reduced or absent arcuate fasciculus, a fiber tract connecting the frontal and temporal lobes in the brain. Reduced or damaged arcuate fasciculus has been associated with various acquired language problems like aphasia and also dyslexia in children.

Still more evidence that formal music training strengthens auditory cortex responses came in a study performed by Antoine Shahin, now at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Shahin believes that musical training gives an individual the acoustic responsiveness of a child some 2 – 3 years older. In talking about the effect of music on the brain, he said the studies do not necessarily show that musical training leads to enhanced IQ or creativity.

Shahin said that when a person listens to sounds over and over, especially for something as harmonic or meaningful as music and speech, the appropriate neurons get reinforced in responding preferentially to those sounds compared to other sounds. This neural behavior was examined in a study that looked at the degree of auditory cortex responsiveness to music and non-familiar sounds as a child ages.

Shahin’s main findings are that the changes triggered by listening to musical sound increases with age and the most significant increase occur between age 10 and 13. This most likely indicates this as being a sensitive period for music and speech acquisition.

Glenn Schellenberg from the University of Toronto directly addressed if musical ability makes a person smarter. Such assessments concerning children are always tricky because of the influence of other factors, such as parental income and education. Nevertheless, he found that passive listening to music seems to help a person perform specific cognitive tests, at least in the short run. Actual music lessons for kids, however, leads to a longer lasting cognitive success.

The effects of musical training on cognition for adults, Schellenberg said, are harder to pin down.

This article is provided by Inside Science News Service, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics.

By Phillip F. Schewe

Read original article at livescience.com