1478 Cognitive-Sensory Interaction in the Neural Encoding of Music and Speech

Saturday, February 20, 2010: 3:30 PM
Room 2 (San Diego Convention Center)
Nina Kraus , Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Music and speech perception relies on basic sensory abilities as well as cognitive function. I will provide evidence for this cognitive-sensory interplay in the auditory system as it pertains to how we process music and speech sounds.  Musical experience profoundly impacts rudimentary neural representation of sound in the human auditory system.   Musical experience not only strengthens neural representation of music, but also generalizes to speech and emotional vocal expression.  Indeed, musical experience can enhance the very auditory processes that are often deficient in clinical populations including developmental dyslexia and autism. I will focus on how musical experience impacts listening in noise.  Hearing in noise is difficult for everyone but especially for children with developmental dyslexia and older adults. We have identified objective neural signatures –from the human auditory brainstem- that reflect hearing in noise. Musicians develop the ability to hear relevant signals embedded in a network of melodies and harmonies and we have discovered that this ability transfers to hearing a target speaker’s voice in background noise. We have discovered elements of the biological basis for this perceptual advantage. Together the data suggest that neural structures thought to be primarily sensory in nature contribute to cognitive processing of biologically-relevant acoustic signals.  Sensory processing of speech and music is tightly coupled with the cognitive abilities that underlie language and musical expertise; this knowledge can be used to advantage in the consideration of educational and remediation strategies. (Supported by NSF SGER 0842376)
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