Musical instruction can “prime” the brain to improve human skills in language, speech, memory and attention, U.S. researchers say. A study at Northwestern University found the effects of musical training on the nervous system can build meaningful patterns important to all types of learning, ScienceDaily.com reported Tuesday.
Researchers studied music training’s effect on neuroplasticity, defined as the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life. An active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said, but also creates permanent patterns important to all learning.
“The brain is unable to process all of the available sensory information from second to second, and thus must selectively enhance what is relevant,” Kraus said. “A musician’s brain selectively enhances information-bearing elements in sound,” Kraus said, and “the nervous system makes associations between complex sounds and what they mean.”
These efficient sound-to-meaning connections are important not only for music but for other aspects of communication, she said. “The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness,” the study said.