Music training helps children to read

Feb. 22, 2010 at 1:23 PM

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Cash-strapped school districts are making a mistake when they cut music from the kindergarten to 12 curriculum, a U.S. researcher said.

Nina Kraus of the Northwestern University said that music training has profound effects that shape the sensory system and should be a mainstay of K-12 education.

"Playing an instrument may help youngsters better process speech in noisy classrooms and more accurately interpret the nuances of language that are conveyed by subtle changes in the human voice," Kraus said in a statement.

"We've found that years of music training may also improve how sounds are processed for language and emotion."

Music training helps typically developing children as well as children with developmental dyslexia or autism more accurately encode speech.

Studies in Kraus's laboratory indicate music -- a high-order cognitive process -- affects automatic processing that occurs early in the processing stream.

"The brainstem, an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain, is modified by our experience with sound," Kraus said. "Now we know that music can fundamentally shape our subcortical sensory circuitry in ways that may enhance everyday tasks, including reading and listening in noise."

Kraus presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Diego.

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