Musical and Linguistic Functions Closely Linked in the Developing Brain

By: Inas Essa

Countless attempts of investigating the developing brain have led researchers to new findings that manifest how elastic and capable it is, which in many cases lead to deeper and promising research to reap better results during childhood and the years that follow.

Previous research investigated how musical and linguistic brain functions are closely linked. Its results have shown that both of them adjust auditory perception and highlighted how a music-related hobby boosts language skill affects the processing of speech in the brain. Building on this, a new study from the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences investigated the link between language acquisition and music processing in the developing brain. Its results demonstrate that not only music affects the linguistic processing in the brain, but the reverse also happens, as learning foreign languages can affect musical processing in children’s brains.

The results that have been published in the Cerebral Cortex journal indicate that when children participate in foreign language classes, their brains processed music better, particularly in facilitating and strengthening the processing of auditory signals.


Learning a Foreign Language and Music Processing

In the recent study, researchers investigated the link between language acquisition and music processing in the brain in Chinese elementary school pupils aged 8-11 years old. They monitored children who attended a music training program and a similar program for the English language, for one school year.

Researchers measured brain responses associated with auditory processing in the children before and after the programs, then the research director, Mari Tervaniemi, compared the results to those of children who attended other training programs. She says: "The results demonstrated that both the music and the language program had an impact on the neural processing of auditory signals".

This study adds to the previous body of research that shows how language and music education have immensely positive effects on children and their overall academic progress. It demonstrates how a foreign language program is able to foster auditory and music neurocognition, in a way close to that achieved by a music program.


More Attention Is Needed

This research could be a trigger that calls for more attention to music and learning new languages. As parents always like to stress on the importance of learning subjects related to math and science, exposure to music and different languages is equally important. Also, this research boosts the need for schools to invest more in the arts to support the young brains’ development.