Familiar with the so-called "Mozart effect" study, which showed evidence of children having improved performance in a cognitive task after listening to Mozart? Later studies have confirmed that music can in fact enhance cognitive functioning, and that these effects are by no means restricted to Mozart, or even to classical music for that matter. But how early on in children’s lives we can start to see these benefits? Recently, a group of researchers arranged a music intervention for nine-months-olds to see whether music training might support language learning in babies. Read more about the fascinating findings of the study in this post.
As the population ages, people are working for more years before retirement. At the same time, the cognitive requirements of the work we do are increasing. Are our brains up for the challenge? Could music offer an easy, enjoyable way to combat cognitive decline associated with normal aging?
Many researchers believe that music and language are deeply connected in the brain. However, whether music and language processing rely on exactly the same neural resources is an important and fascinating area of inquiry in the neuroscience of music.
Several studies have shown that music training during childhood augments how the brain processes sound and can also influence the development of language skills. According to a recent study, the effects are not limited to only childhood, but music training even during teenage years can have an effect on the maturation of brain functions important for linguistic skills.
Music has been called “the universal language of mankind”. Indeed, music exists in all cultures, but is there something common to all music in the world? Do truly universal musical characteristics exist?
Previously, scientists have shown that the processing of music and language relies on partly overlapping neural resources. Therefore, the same neural mechanisms that are active when an individual processes the rhythm of music, or the beat, are active when we process the rhythm of speech. In testimony of this, researchers Elizabeth Wielanda, Devin McAuley, Laura Dilleya, and Soo-Eun Chang recently discovered that children who stutter have difficulties in perceiving the beat in music.
We have examined the possible evolutionary role of music before, and even posited it's similarity to other forms of communication such as speech before, but what do we know about the way music and language interact in the brain? Can music help us express ourselves (or recover lost abilities) using language? Are musicians better foreign language speakers? This post surveys current research into music and language and where there more exciting work to be done to understand this complex and illuminating interaction in the brain.