The results of a study by researchers from the Centre for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS-Iscte), the Psychology Centre of the University of Porto, and the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) show that musical training can facilitate auditory processing, such as the perception of different tones, for example; and linguistic processing, such as the ability to perceive speech in quiet or noisy conditions.
This work, conducted under the scope of Leonor Neves' PhD thesis and the MUSE project, both funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, was published in the scientific journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews in July 2022.
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According to Leonor Neves, first author of this research, "more than 6000 articles on the effects of music training on different abilities were found, but after applying some inclusion criteria, we reached a total of 62 studies". Of these, the results of 44 were included in a meta-analysis: a statistical technique that integrates the results of several independent studies in order to obtain a "summary measure," which is a good indicator of the overall results.
The novelty of this work was the analysis of studies conducted using brain measures, namely through techniques such as the electroencephalogram (EEG). Leonor Neves summarizes what was found:
"The studies that used brain measures also seem to indicate an effect of musical training on different brain structures, facilitating the way people perceive and distinguish sounds and speech, including variations in speech rhythm and intonation (that is, prosody)".
Despite these findings, the researchers point out that the effect is small, and that the interpretation of these results must consider the diversity of methodologies or the samples of study participants, as well as the presence of a publication bias. Still, the study may serve as a foundation for future research on music training, and for its practical applications, such as music-based interventions.