Scientists have uncovered the first concrete evidence that playing music can significantly enhance the brain and sharpen hearing for all kinds of sounds, including speech.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"Experience with music appears to help with many other things in life, potentially transferring to activities like reading or picking up nuances in tones of voices or hearing sounds in a noisy classroom better," researcher Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, told LiveScience.

Music was thought largely to be the province of the cerebral cortex, where higher brain functions such as reasoning, thought and language are seated. The brainstem was thought to be unchangeable and uninvolved in the complex processes linked with music.

"These results show us how malleable to experience the brainstem actually is," Kraus said of the findings detailed in the April issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience. "We think music engages higher level functions in the cortex that actually tune the brainstem."

Much remains open for investigation. "How much musical training would you need for this to be helpful?" Kraus wondered. "Would music help children with literacy problems? How old would you have to be to see these effects?"

Link & Image: LiveScience via Spluch