Friday, March 30, 2012

Practicing the trombone improves your ability to hear

Actually, that statement is a little misleading.  According to a new study from nearby Northwestern University in Evanston indicates that “Lifelong playing of musical instruments has a positive impact on the brain”. What impact?  It helps you better hear somebody speaking in a noisy place, like a restaurant or bar.

Now it is true that there is nothing in the article that attributes the improvement solely to trombone playing. At the same time, I feel that I need to point out that the Chicago Tribune article does show a picture of a trombone player.  And, in case you’re wondering, yes, I did play trombone in the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band.

According to Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, and the principal investigator of its Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, clarifies the results of the study saying, “Hearing what your spouse says when you’re in a noisy restaurant, for example, is harder when you’re older. But this study shows that musicians are faster at processing noise than non-musicians are. This shows us there is a biological impact of musical training.”

I find this both fun and interesting.  So I went to the Northwestern University’s Neuroscience Laboratory’s site and listened to Dr. Kraus talk about how the brain “hears” music. I loved hearing talking about the similarity between the sound wave and corresponding brain waves. 

Here’s a link to a video of her talking about that:

But wait, there’s more!  According to Kraus, “We’ve been pleased to hear from educators who have used our website to argue for funding for continuation of musical education. We’re giving them biological evidence that, yes, continued musical education matters.” Here’s the link to the PPT slides recapping their research projects including the evidence to which she refers:
And here’s a link to the article in the Chicago Tribune:

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