How Playing A Musical Instrument Could Ease Dyslexia

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Playing a musical instrument from a young age appears to create new pathways in the brain that process written words and letters, reports Ann Lukits in the Wall Street Journal. The findings, which may help children with reading disorders such as dyslexia, appeared in the journal Neuropsychologia:

“Fifteen professional musicians who had played an instrument since childhood and 15 control subjects who couldn’t read music participated in two experiments in Milan. Subjects were 26 to 31 years old.

In one experiment, subjects pressed a button if they recognized the notes E, F, G, A and B (mi, fa, sol, la and ti on the musical scale) which randomly appeared in 300 short musical scores flashed on a computer screen.

In the other experiment, they pressed the button when they spotted the letters B, G, L, M and S in 300 randomly selected words. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measured brain-wave activity. Musicians recognized notes significantly faster than controls; letters, only slightly faster. Musicians made fewer errors in both experiments.

But EEG results showed striking differences. In musicians, reading musical notes and words activated both the left and right sides of the brain, whereas in controls, only the left side responded to words and the right side to notes.

Language is normally a left-brain function and music a right-brain function. The involvement of the right side in a typically left-sided function probably resulted from reading music, researchers said. Musical training may be quite helpful for children struggling to read, they said.”

Lukits adds several caveats: “The differences in brain activation may be due to the controls’ inability to read musical scores, researchers said. Spatial abilities may differ between the two groups due to musicians’ practice of reading music, they said. The study was small.” (Read more here.)

Yet another example of how studying music changes the brain in significant and lasting ways.

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3 Responses to “How Playing A Musical Instrument Could Ease Dyslexia”

  1. Unlike the ‘Mozart Effect” which has been misconstrued if not downright abused (http://ow.ly/hRn3a), these kinds of studies simply reinforce the power of music and how it can be very good for people of all ages. Learning music is fun and people who are engaged with the arts make the world a better place. Those are reasons enough to become involved….all the extras are a bonus!

    • You are exactly right re benefits of older people learning to play music. This is the theme of my soon to be published book, The Vintage Years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty. Check it out on my website or goodreads.com

  2. Trevor King says:

    People genetically predisposed to have perfect pitch must be exposed to music education before the age of 7, or else the critical period ends and perfect pitch will never be developed.

    Those exposed to music education at an early age have a more voluminous corpus callosum (i.e. they have more fibrous bundles of brain tissue tying the two hemispheres together). This increase in the corpus callosum’s volume may explain why students in music education score an average of +90 points higher on the Math portion of the SAT.

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