Washington : A new study has revealed that youngsters who sit actively in a music class show greater gains in speech processing and reading. Researchers from Northwestern University found that children, who regularly attended music classes and actively participated, showed larger improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers after two years. The research also showed that the neural benefits stemming from participation occurred in the same areas of the brain that are traditionally weak in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Lead author Nina Kraus said that even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement, attendance and class participation, predicted the strength of neural processing after music training.

The type of music class may also be important, the researchers found. The neural processing of students who played instruments in class improved more than the children who attended the music appreciation group, according to the study. Kraus added that their results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain. Children from families of lower socioeconomic status process sound less efficiently, in part because of noisier environments and also due to linguistic deprivation or not hearing enough complex words, sentences and concepts.

This puts them at increased risk of academic failure or dropping out of school, said Kraus. Kraus continued that think of “neural noise” as like static on the radio, with the announcer’s voice coming in faintly, adding music training may be one way to boost how the brain processes sound to remove the interference. Kraus mentioned that speech processing efficiency is closely linked to reading, since reading requires the ability to segment speech strings into individual sound units and a poor reader’s brain often processes speech suboptimally. Kraus concluded that spending time learning to play a musical instrument can have a profound effect on how your nervous system works. The study is published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.