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Music and Language Processing

The science behind studying arts and in this case music, often reflects the correlation between the arts and learning

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We are brining you reports from Music Education Works, a group involved in the benefits of music in life and learning, especially in youth.

K-1 teacher Ben Moody often brings his guitar to class as part of his daily learning plans

Researchers in Japan recently used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of secondary school students during a task focused on musical observation. They found a specific link between musical processing and areas of the brain associated with language processing.

The researchers, led by Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, enlisted 98 Japanese secondary school students classified into three groups: Group S (Suzuki) was trained from a young age (2-9 years old) in the Suzuki method; Group E (Early) was musically trained from a young age (2-8 years old) but not in the Suzuki method; and students in Group L (Late) were either musically trained at a later age (9-13 years old), but not in the Suzuki method, or were not musically trained at all.

All the students were given a musical exercise to identify errors in a piece of music played to them while their brains were being scanned by functional MRI. During the exercises, groups S and E showed more overall brain activity than Group L, especially during the pitch and articulation conditions. Furthermore, groups S and E showed activity in very specific regions depending on the kind of error being tested for. Interestingly, Group S showed some unique patterns of activation mostly in areas of the right brain, associated with emotion and melody, during the tempo condition, supporting the ideas behind the Suzuki method.

“One striking observation was that regardless of musical experience, the highly specific grammar centre in the left brain was activated during the articulation condition. This connection between music and language might explain why everyone can enjoy music even if they are not musical themselves,” said Sakai.



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