Public Release: 

Musical training and speech processing

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers report potential benefits of musical training to speech processing. Musical training is thought to enhance music and speech processing in the brain. However, the brain mechanisms supporting any potential advantages of musical training for speech processing remain unclear. Yi Du and Robert Zatorre used functional MRI to examine differences in speech perception of musicians and nonmusicians. During MRI scanning, 15 musicians and 15 nonmusicians, around 21-22 years of age, identified various syllable sounds at signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) ranging from -12 to 8 decibels. While the two groups performed equally in a "no-noise" condition, musicians outperformed nonmusicians in correctly identifying syllables at all other SNRs. The ability was associated with enhanced activation of the left inferior frontal and right auditory brain regions in musicians. Additional analysis revealed that neural patterns related to phoneme sounds, which compose syllables, were more distinct in the auditory and speech motor brain regions in musicians, compared with nonmusicians. Further, musical training was tied to strengthened functional connectivity of the auditory-motor network, suggesting that musical training might improve speech processing. According to the authors, the findings might have implications for treating hearing disorders in aging populations.

Article #17-12223: "Musical training sharpens and bonds ears and tongue to hear speech better," by Yi Du and Robert Zatorre.

MEDIA CONTACT: Yi Du, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Beijing, CHINA; tel: +86-10-64852198, +86-13810302260; e-mail: <duyi@psych.ac.cn>

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