Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Is the Ability to Move to a Beat Related to Reading Ability?

The ability to synchronize movement to a steady beat relates to the brain’s response to sound. Musical training with an emphasis on movement synchronization to musical beats may improve brain synchrony, with the potential to benefit children with reading difficulties and other auditory- based language impairments.

In a recent study, Northwestern University researchers Tierney and Kraus tested the tapping ability of high-school students ages 14-17. The participants tapped with their fingers, along with a metronomic drum sound. While their tapping performance was being measured, their brainstem EEG brain wave recordings were collected. Accuracy was calculated based on how closely the participants’ tapping rate tied with the metronome beats.

The findings revealed that beat synchronization is related to the timing in speech-evoked (auditory) brainstem responses. Consequently, if a child has difficulty with rhythmic timing this may delay the development of their auditory awareness and reading ability. The authors state “This is the first evidence linking beat synchronization ability to individual differences in auditory system function.”

Activities set to a beat offer exercise to the auditory system, potentially supporting the sound-to-meaning associations which are essential to learning to read.

Journal Reference: Tierney A, Kraus N (2013) “ The Ability to Move to a Beat Is Linked to the Consistency of Neural Responses to Sound”  The Journal of Neuroscience 33(38):14981–14988.


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