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PLoS One. 2013 Dec 5;8(12):e80546. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080546. eCollection 2013.

Enhanced syllable discrimination thresholds in musicians.

Author information

1
Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America ; Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Abstract

Speech processing inherently relies on the perception of specific, rapidly changing spectral and temporal acoustic features. Advanced acoustic perception is also integral to musical expertise, and accordingly several studies have demonstrated a significant relationship between musical training and superior processing of various aspects of speech. Speech and music appear to overlap in spectral and temporal features; however, it remains unclear which of these acoustic features, crucial for speech processing, are most closely associated with musical training. The present study examined the perceptual acuity of musicians to the acoustic components of speech necessary for intra-phonemic discrimination of synthetic syllables. We compared musicians and non-musicians on discrimination thresholds of three synthetic speech syllable continua that varied in their spectral and temporal discrimination demands, specifically voice onset time (VOT) and amplitude envelope cues in the temporal domain. Musicians demonstrated superior discrimination only for syllables that required resolution of temporal cues. Furthermore, performance on the temporal syllable continua positively correlated with the length and intensity of musical training. These findings support one potential mechanism by which musical training may selectively enhance speech perception, namely by reinforcing temporal acuity and/or perception of amplitude rise time, and implications for the translation of musical training to long-term linguistic abilities.

PMID:
24339875
PMCID:
PMC3855080
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0080546
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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