Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life. A recent newfound research focus on the effects of music training on the nervous system reinforce the concept of neuroplasticity, with data suggesting that the neural connections made during musical training also prime the brain for other aspects of human communication, such as skills of language, speech, memory, attention and even vocal emotion. As well, an active engagement also enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns that are important to learning.
Nina Kraus, from Northwestern University (Illinois, USA), and colleagues reports that musicians trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies are primed to understand speech in a noisy background, and exhibit both enhanced cognitive and sensory abilities that give them a distinct advantage for processing speech in challenging listening environments compared with non-musicians; music training leads to changes throughout the auditory system that prime musicians for listening challenges beyond music processing. Writing that: “This 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 researchers urge that: “the role of music in shaping individual development deserves consideration.”
- Nina Kraus, Bharath Chandrasekaran. “Music training for the development of auditory skills.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 599–605, August 2010.