Music Lessons: New Research Into Learning, Memory, and Movement
Findings underscore importance of music education for hearing-impairment, language, and motor skills
CHICAGO — New studies released today explore how musical training — and its repetitious acts or movements — affects sensory input, and also suggest that day-to-day skills, such as movement and language, are shaped by learning and memory. The research, which supports the “practice makes perfect” mantra, suggests that the building block of musical education is indeed repetition, pointing to potential diagnostic and treatment options for a number of hearing and language disorders. It was presented at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Today’s new findings show that:
• What people hear is largely determined by life experience. Even when an individual is effectively deaf, our brains, trained from life-long learning and memory, can detect subtle differences in familiar sounds (Markus Engelmann, abstract 70.9, see attached summary).
• Musical training boosts higher-level hearing and strengthens hearing-specific cognitive abilities. These findings suggest musical training can help alleviate deficits in how the brain interprets sound, a leading contributor to language and literacy disorders affecting more than 10 percent of children in developed countries (Dana Strait, abstract 451.12, see attached summary).
• In a study comparing highly trained musicians and non-musicians in loud environments, musicians understood speech better and were less bothered by background noise (Nina Kraus, PhD, abstract 451.20, see attached summary).
• The longer musicians have trained, the better their nervous systems reflect their specific motor skills, much as if their years of practice left a mark directly on their brains (Reinhard Gentner, abstract 307.12, see attached summary).
“Today’s findings establish the pervasive impact of musical experience on brain development,” said press conference moderator Mark Tramo, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and an expert on music and the brain. “The research underscores the significant promise of musical training in strengthening key cognitive and auditory skills.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as private and philanthropic organizations.
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