Music Play Could Enhance Infants’ Speech Processing Schools may want to think twice before eliminating music education, say University of Washington (UW) researchers, in light of their recent study that suggests a beneficial relationship between music exposure and improved speech processing in babies. The study from UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) found stronger neural ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   July 01, 2016
Music Play Could Enhance Infants’ Speech Processing
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Development / Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / School-Based Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Professional Issues & Training / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   July 01, 2016
Music Play Could Enhance Infants’ Speech Processing
The ASHA Leader, July 2016, Vol. 21, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.21072016.16
The ASHA Leader, July 2016, Vol. 21, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.21072016.16
Schools may want to think twice before eliminating music education, say University of Washington (UW) researchers, in light of their recent study that suggests a beneficial relationship between music exposure and improved speech processing in babies.
The study from UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) found stronger neural responses to music and speech patterns in 9-month-old babies who had attended music-play sessions with their parents, compared to those who had play sessions in social environments without music.
The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that “experiencing a rhythmic pattern in music can also improve the ability to detect and make predictions about rhythmic patterns in speech,” says lead author Christina Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher at I-LABS. “This means that early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.”

“This research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself.”

Thirty-nine babies, in groups of two or three, participated with their parents in a dozen 15-minute sessions over a month. Twenty babies were assigned to the music set-up, in which they learned a waltz (triple-meter) music pattern through guidance from their parents in tapping out the beat. The rest of the participants played in sessions with toy cars, blocks and other objects that did not involve music.
Using magnetoencephalography to observe brain activity, the researchers brought the babies back into the lab within a week after their last play session, playing the babies a series of music and speech sounds that were occasionally disrupted. The auditory and prefrontal cortices of the infants who had been exposed to music play had stronger reactions to the disruptions than those of the babies in the control group.
“Schools across our nation are decreasing music experiences for our children, saying they are too expensive,” says co-author Patricia Kuhl, who is also co-director of I-LABS. “This research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself. Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s abilities to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world.”
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July 2016
Volume 21, Issue 7