A new study has said that you can learn playing an instrument to enhance your ability to pick up emotional cues in conversation.
Nina Kraus and colleagues at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has found differences in brain activity that they say make musicians better at picking out speech from background noise.
AdvertisementThe researchers found that musicians are better at repeating a sentence heard in the presence of background noise.
They then asked 16 lifelong musicians and 15 non-musicians to listen to speech in a quiet or noisy environment while they were wearing scalp electrodes to monitor their brain activity.
Background noise delayed the brain's response, but this delay was much shorter in musicians.
Besides, in the noisy environment, the musicians' brainwaves were more similar to the sound waves of the speech than in non-musicians.
The difference could be partly genetic, but Kraus says training is likely to help.
"Musicians spend a lot of time extracting particular sounds from a soundscape," New Scientist quoted her as saying.
This means that musical training could provide real benefits to children with autism or language difficulties, who tend to find understanding speech in a noisy environment particularly difficult, and for other children too, says Kraus.
"Music education is not just about teaching your child how to play the flute, it's about teaching your child to function better in our noisy auditory environment," she said.
The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.