Reading, The Brain & Music

The benefits of music training extend to language abilities.

Below you’ll find the reasons and proof as to why musical training enhances language and reading skills.  Keep in mind everything you read in this lesson is factual, based on research, not opinion or assumption. (And the length of musical training significantly impacts the positive results on reading comprehension performance!)

**Many terms have been linked to explanations, so you can better understand the science behind it all.

When music and reading are broken down to their basic components there’s a lot of “overlap” in the areas of our brain the two abilities draw upon

The following abilities and neural functions are vital for reading AND all enhanced from musical training.

  • Phonological awareness
  • Speech-in-noise perception
  • Rhythm perception
  • Auditory working memory
  • Sound pattern learning

This means musical training could naturally provide an effective developmental educational strategy for all children, including those with language learning impairments. Let’s explore further into how music and reading are linked by examining each of the 5 vital functions.

 

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

Many language skills rely on phonological awareness (the awareness of all of the sounds of language).  Phonological awareness in turn, relies upon the ability to categorize speech sounds distinguished by small differences in timing and frequency.  Children who have difficulty acquiring language skills have impaired auditory neural synchrony, which makes it hard for them to discriminate speech sounds and the problem doesn’t come from a general auditory deficit, but the precision of temporal encoding in the auditory system.

Trial-by-trial neural response consistency varies systematically with reading ability.

ConfirmationCheck-iconNeural synchrony has been shown to be enhanced through musical training.

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians have faster neural responses to both music & speech sounds.

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians have enhanced encoding of certain frequencies of speech.

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians better encode the differences between speech sounds

 

SPEECH-IN-NOISE PERCEPTION

Children with language impairment have particular difficulty perceiving speech when it’s present in background noise.

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ConfirmationCheck-iconMusical training actually INCREASES the auditory system’s resilience to noise.

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians are better able to perceive speech degraded by noise or reverberation across the lifespan through old age…

 

RHYTHM PERCEPTION

Good readers have Rhythm! – Reading ability and phonological awareness relate to a variety of rhythm tracking abilities and it’s been suggested the same neural mechanism is responsible for tracking rhythm in both music and speech.  Being able to identify the rhythmic patterns – specifically the boundaries between words or syllables in spoken languages is necessary for the development of phonolgical awareness!

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ConfirmationCheck-iconA single year of quality music training leads to enhanced ability to keep a constant tempo when tapping out a beat.

ConfirmationCheck-iconBeat synchronization (tapping to a beat on time!) has been shown to improve reading fluency!

ConfirmationCheck-iconChildren who are good readers are shown to tap more accurately to a beat of music than poor readers.

 

AUDITORY WORKING MEMORY

The Auditory working memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Learning to speak and read depend on the Auditory Working Memory.

The Auditory working memory is impaired in poor readers, resulting in low performance in areas such as verbal short-term memory and more

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ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians have enhanced verbal short-term memory!

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusicians show superior performance on tests of auditory working memory!

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusical experience enhances the auditory working memory across a person’s entire lifespan!

 

SOUND PATTERN LEARNING

Sound pattern recognition is crucial to speech and reading. Readers must be able to pick up on sound patterns – they must be able to learn about sound! Good readers can detect regularities in speech sound patterns while poor readers or learning-impaired children have more difficulty. Musicians on the other hand show an enhanced ability to lock onto regularities in sound.

ConfirmationCheck-iconReading is tied to the ability to track sound patterns and musical aptitude!

ConfirmationCheck-iconMusical training exercises mechanisms for the detection of patterns in sound that are also critical for reading skills.

 

For more detailed information, all the studies, tests. research and more, please check out the original article:
MUSIC TRAINING FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF READING SKILLS by tierney et al 2013