Researchers from the University of Liverpool in England say this suggests that the areas responsible for music and language share common brain pathways.
The researchers, from the university’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, carried out two separate studies looking at brain activity patterns in musicians and non-musicians.
The first study looked for patterns of brain activity in 14 musicians and nine non-musicians while they participated in music and word generation tasks. The results showed that patterns in the musician’s brains were similar in both tasks, but this was not the case for the non-musicians, the researchers reported.
In the second study, brain activity patterns were measured in a different group of non-musical participants who took part in a word generation task and a music perception task.
The measurements were taken again following 30 minutes of musical training, which involved spending half an hour learning to tap three polyrhythms with their fingers. A polyrhythm is two or more independent rhythms playing at the same time, the researchers explained.
While the measurements of brain activity taken before the musical training showed no significant pattern of correlation, “significant” similarities were found following the training, according to the study’s findings.
“It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training,” said Amy Spray, who conducted the research as part of a School of Psychology Summer Internship Scheme.
“This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing,” explained Liverpool psychologist Dr. Georg Mayer. “Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilized for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language.”
The research was presented at the British Psychological Society (BPS) annual conference.
Source: University of Liverpool