Friday, May 14, 2010

Benefits of Music Training

More interesting findings from the Learning and the Brain Conference we attended last week in Washington, D.C., this time on how music training improves skills in children with language based learning differences.

Bharath Chandrasekaren and Nina Kraus of Northwestern University presented research that looked at a number of studies that documented that children with a variety of language based learning disorders have difficulties with noise exclusion -- the ability to exclude extraneous noises while processing language. Whether this common problem is a symptom or a cause of underlying language issues, such children face additional difficulties when they are trying to process language in a noisy classroom or similar environment.

The presenters then looked at the documented findings that musicians have demonstrated a number of skills that enable them to have strong speech perception even in noisy environments. For example, musicians can hear their own instrument even in the midst of an orchestra playing. There are also social benefits to being able to pick up on conversation and cues in the context of a busy playground or event. Although the study authors stress that more research is needed, they propose that students who struggle with noise exclusion ability may improve when given musical training, since "musical experience benefits all the underlying skills necessary for successful learning in background noise."

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