Monday, September 19, 2011

Musical expertise boosts language perception

Perhaps the thousands of hours I have put in on piano practice have made it easier for me to write? A few clips from the introduction of Francois and Schön :
The fact that musicians perceive some sound features more accurately than nonmusicians do is not so surprising. After all, they spend hours and hours of their life focusing on sounds and the way they are generated, paying particular attention to pitch, timber, duration, and timing. However, what seems less evident to us is whether or not this intensive musical practice can affect nonmusical abilities. Several recent studies seem to confirm this possibility….In this study, we took the challenge of focusing on a rather high cognitive function: word segmentation, namely, the ability to extract words from continuous speech…Participants listened to an artificial sung language (wherein music and language dimensions are highly intertwined) and were then tested with a 2-alternative forced-choice task on pairs of words and melodies (familiar vs. unfamiliar). The main goal of this study was to test whether musical expertise can facilitate word segmentation. With this aim, we compared 2 groups, one group with formal musical training and one without.
And here is their abstract:
Musical training is known to modify auditory perception and related cortical organization. Here, we show that these modifications may extend to higher cognitive functions and generalize to processing of speech. Previous studies have shown that adults and newborns can segment a continuous stream of linguistic and nonlinguistic stimuli based only on probabilities of occurrence between adjacent syllables or tones. In the present experiment, we used an artificial (sung) language learning design coupled with an electrophysiological approach. While behavioral results were not clear cut in showing an effect of expertise, Event-Related Potentials data showed that musicians learned better than did nonmusicians both musical and linguistic structures of the sung language. We discuss these findings in terms of practice-related changes in auditory processing, stream segmentation, and memory processes.

1 comment:

  1. Considering the fireworks one sees when looking at an fMRI of an musician playing I can't say this comes as a surprise. There is some true genius in playing a musical instrument well.