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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jul 10;115(28):E6630-E6639. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1808412115. Epub 2018 Jun 25.

Piano training enhances the neural processing of pitch and improves speech perception in Mandarin-speaking children.

Author information

1
State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, International Data Group (IDG)/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, 100875 Beijing, China; nany@bnu.edu.cn desimone@mit.edu.
2
State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, International Data Group (IDG)/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, 100875 Beijing, China.
3
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139.
4
Neuropsychology and Neurorehabilitation Service, The Laboratory for Investigative Neurophysiology, University Hospital Center and University of Lausanne, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.
5
Radiodiagnostic Service, The Laboratory for Investigative Neurophysiology, University Hospital Center and University of Lausanne, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.
6
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139.
7
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139; nany@bnu.edu.cn desimone@mit.edu.

Abstract

Musical training confers advantages in speech-sound processing, which could play an important role in early childhood education. To understand the mechanisms of this effect, we used event-related potential and behavioral measures in a longitudinal design. Seventy-four Mandarin-speaking children aged 4-5 y old were pseudorandomly assigned to piano training, reading training, or a no-contact control group. Six months of piano training improved behavioral auditory word discrimination in general as well as word discrimination based on vowels compared with the controls. The reading group yielded similar trends. However, the piano group demonstrated unique advantages over the reading and control groups in consonant-based word discrimination and in enhanced positive mismatch responses (pMMRs) to lexical tone and musical pitch changes. The improved word discrimination based on consonants correlated with the enhancements in musical pitch pMMRs among the children in the piano group. In contrast, all three groups improved equally on general cognitive measures, including tests of IQ, working memory, and attention. The results suggest strengthened common sound processing across domains as an important mechanism underlying the benefits of musical training on language processing. In addition, although we failed to find far-transfer effects of musical training to general cognition, the near-transfer effects to speech perception establish the potential for musical training to help children improve their language skills. Piano training was not inferior to reading training on direct tests of language function, and it even seemed superior to reading training in enhancing consonant discrimination.

KEYWORDS:

education; music; piano; reading

PMID:
29941577
PMCID:
PMC6048476
[Available on 2019-01-10]
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1808412115
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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