Rock 'n' Roll May Help You Communicate

Turn up the freedom rock! A new study suggests that musicians may be better at hearing certain sounds, thanks to rock 'n' roll.

The Journal of Neuroscience published findings this week from a study conducted by neurobiologists at Northwestern University in Chicago. It's the first biological evidence that musicians' have a perceptual advantage for "speech-in-noise."

When tested against non-musicians, musicians demonstrated faster neural timing, enhanced representation of speech harmonics, and less degraded response morphology in noise. That is to say, they were more effective communicating in noisy environments.

Lead researcher Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, explained that musicians can overcome specific elements of speech in spite of ambient ruckus. "Converting key elements that comprise speech sounds — consonants, syllables, timing and harmonics — was maintained with greater fidelity in musicians despite the disruptive influence of background noise."

According to the National Science Foundation, this likely occurs because cognitive processes that involve auditory attention and memory strengthen musicians' nervous systems enabling them to sense and discern relevant sounds. Understanding the biological basis for this advantage is the goal of the research, which may also prove beneficial for children and adults, who have difficulty hearing in noise.

Speech perception in noise is a complex task people are faced with every day. Cognitive demands of a musical performance are equally complex in that they require musicians to parse concurrently presented instruments or voices.

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