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Musical ability ‘biologically linked to reading ability’

Washington, Oct 17 (ANI): Musical ability is related to verbal memory and literacy in childhood, according to new research.

Researchers have shown how auditory working memory and musical aptitude are intrinsically related to reading ability, and have provided a biological basis for this link.

Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University tested children on their ability to read and to recognize words.

This was compared to the extent of their auditory working memory (remembering a sequence of numbers and then being able to quote them in reverse), and musical aptitude (both melody and rhythm).

The electrical activity within the children’s brains was also measured as auditory brainstem responses to rhythmic, or random, sounds based on speech.

The team lead by Dr Nina Kraus found that poor readers had reduced neural response (auditory brainstem activity) to rhythmic rather than random sounds compared to good readers.

In fact the level of neural enhancement to acoustic regularities correlated with reading ability as well as musical aptitude. The musical ability test, specifically the rhythm aspect, was also related to reading ability.

Similarly a good score on the auditory working memory related to better reading and to the rhythm aspect of musical ability.

“Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brainstem,” said Dr Kraus.

“These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training,” she added.

The study has been published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions. (ANI)

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