Musical training and speech processing

Musical training and 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.

Researchers used functional MRI to examine differences in speech perception of musicians and nonmusicians. During MRI scanning, 15 musicians and 15 nonmusicians, on average 21 to 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 the 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