Harmonizing minds: How musical rhythms boost language processing in children with developmental language disorder

Music has been used in various ways, including assisting cognitive decline, enhancing medication efficacy and establishing a regular sleep pattern. The effectiveness of the treatment for developmental language disorder in children has been showcased in a recent study.

The sound of music 

Listening to music while practicing sentences can help improve speech and language skills for children, according to research by Western Sydney University.

It took place at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France, involving 15 French-speaking children who have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and 18 typically developing French-speaking children without language processing difficulties. The children’s ages ranged from 5 to 13 years.

Dr Anna Fiveash, a cognitive psychologist from Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development and co-lead author of the study [1], reported that the children were instructed to listen to music featuring both regular and irregular rhythms for a duration of 30 seconds. Following this, they were asked to accurately repeat sets of six sentences, resulting in noteworthy outcomes [4].

Encouraging outcomes in children

“We found that across all of the children – including those with language problems – the sentences were better able to be repeated out loud after the children had heard the regular musical rhythms compared to the irregular musical rhythms,” according to Dr Fiveash in a Western Sydney University news release [2].

As Dr Fiveash pointed out, there was no difference in performance on a control task without language, suggesting that the benefit of a regular musical rhythm was specific to that task. Regular rhythms that were 120 beats per minute in 4/4 time were used, so the listener felt the beat twice a second. To create irregular rhythms, the regular rhythms were scrambled so that it was impossible to extract a beat from them.

Study co-author Dr Enik Ladányi from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre said the results provide new perspectives on neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly for DLD research and speech therapy practice [3]. Language processing limitations can make it difficult for kids with DLD to understand their peers, teachers and parents, which can have a long-term impact on their academics and social lives.

Learn more about this interesting study from Western Sydney University in Nature’s: Science of Learning [4].

Musical training and cognitive decline in older individuals

Musical training can also help older listeners understand speech in noisy environments. A study from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that it preserves youth-like activity patterns and compensates with other brain regions [5].

Learning music is a promising method that is available to almost anyone. Not only does it provide a musically enriching and aesthetic experience, but it can also benefit the brain, particularly for older adults.

[1] http://bitly.ws/Lpbu
[2] http://bitly.ws/LcM7
[3] https://www.vumc.org/music-cognition-lab/person/eniko-ladanyi
[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41539-023-00170-1
[5] https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adg7056

Photograph: OlhaRomaniuk/Envato
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