News Release

Innate auditory skills and music training

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Inherent auditory perception skills influence the effects of music training on speech processing ability, a study suggests. Music training is thought to augment neural encoding of speech in the brain, sharpening the ability to parse speech from noise. However, the precise roles of preexisting auditory skills and training-induced changes in speech perception remain unclear, partly because most previous studies were cross-sectional comparisons of musicians and nonmusicians. Kelsey Mankel and Gavin Bidelman assigned 28 volunteers, around 22 years of age and with less than 3 years of formal music training, to one of two groups based on an established test of musical listening ability; the test scored for perception of melody, tuning, tempo, and accent, among other properties. Comparison of the brain's frequency-following response (FFR), an EEG fingerprint of sound perception, revealed that neural encoding of speech cues was enhanced in volunteers with higher test scores and comparable to that of trained musicians, suggesting that innate auditory skills confer enhancements in speech perception. Nonetheless, musicians, with around 10 years of formal training, exhibited stronger and more nimble FFRs than high-scoring nonmusicians, suggesting that music training augments preexisting advantages in auditory perception. According to the authors, the study underscores the need to consider preexisting advantages in assessing claims of the benefits of music training to speech processing.

Article #18-11793: "Inherent auditory skills rather than formal music training shape the neural encoding of speech," by Kelsey Mankel and Gavin Bidelman

MEDIA CONTACT: Gavin Bidelman, University of Memphis, TN; tel: 901-678-5826; e-mail:


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