Two very natural abilities have now been found to be related to each other. Science has now established that these two abilities are linked in the brain. This is so profound because it could mean a more efficient way to treat strokes.
In the studies, they found that language and instrumental music overlap each other in the brain’s processing area. Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicated that intensive musical therapy could help improve speech in stroke patients. Also, researchers said that music education could help children with developmental dyslexia or autism to speak better.
Harvard Medical School associate professor of neurology, Gottfried Schlaug, told the meeting that people who have previously suffered a severe stroke on the left side of their brain causing them to be unable to speak, can sometimes learn to communicate by singing. He said that “music making is a multi-sensory experience, activating links to several parts of the brain,” Schlaug said. He then proceeded to show a video of a patient who could only make sounds be able to say “I am thirsty” by singing the words. Another patient in the video was able to sing “happy birthday” after they were previously unable to speak at all.
Even though these findings are very positive and uplifting news for many, Schlaug warns that this work is specifically for people who’ve had a severe stroke on the left side of their brain and the therapy can be extensive and time consuming.
More good news came from Nina Kraus, the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, when she reported that new studies indicate that musical training improves the brain’s ability to do other activities. An example she gave was that musicians are better at finding the voice of a friend in a noisy restaurant, because the musically trained brain becomes more skillful at detecting patterns in sounds. She also said that children who play an instrument may be able to “better process speech in noisy classrooms and more accurately interpret the nuances of language that are conveyed by subtle changes in the human voice.” She went on to say that when people are first learning to talk and when they speak to babies they frequently use musical patterns in their speech.
“People’s hearing systems are fine-tuned by the experiences they’ve had with sound throughout their lives. Music training is not only beneficial for processing music stimuli. We’ve found that years of music training may also improve how sounds are processed for language and emotion,” Kraus said.