Events

ABSTRACT : An exciting facet of language is its link to music: musical and rhythmic ability track with language ability and music training can improve reading skills. A shared link between reading and music is reliance on biological processing of sound. It is essential to learning how to read, forming sound-to-meaning connections is a fundamental building block. And sound processing, by many definitions, is enhanced in musicians. Compelling research in the past decade or so has demonstrated tangible, measurable biological signatures of language ability including reading. Our biological approach, which gauges the processing of a range of facets of sound, from the timing of sound onsets and phase locking to speech envelope tracking, hemispheric dominance, and more, also shows enhancements in musicians. We also have found evidence that a modest amount of music training in childhood has an impact on neural processing as an adult. With these findings in mind, in the past few years, my group has launched lines of neuroeducational research, exploring the biological underpinnings of brain plasticity. We are following the academic performance of two groups of young, underserved public-school students longitudinally as they receive school-based music lessons, with a particular emphasis on biological changes. Early findings suggest that compared to their control-group peers, music students have better hearing in noise, a reduction in their reading achievement gap, and enhanced auditory-motor synchronization. In addition, their biological response to sound is more precise. As these studies continue, we will especially focus on rhythmic skills that have particularly proven to tie into reading skills. In addition to cementing findings about the role of music education on language abilities, this line of research promises to further reinforce the powerful role of our biological approach as its applicability as a uniform assessment across many populations is confirmed.