The presentation by Dr. Toby Dye regarding whether or not musical experience has an effect on auditory attention was all about the differences in language processing and auditory attention for musicians and non-musicians. It has long since been assumed that musicians have higher cognitive function due to their practice and disciple learning the instrument they are a master at. One part of Dr. Dye’s talk I found most interesting was the part about his methods of determining a musician from a non-musician. Dr. Dye mentioned that in a lot of literature and studies that conclude that musicians have a different cognitive ability there is not a very strict guideline or determinate to defining a musician. He used M.U.S.E. to define his musicians. In an article from Time Magazine titled, “This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain” the author, Melissa Locker, talks about the differences in learning and development for children who are involved in music and not involved. Similar to Dr. Dye’s talk, the author of this article cites playing music as an advantage for kids to distinguish between sounds which ultimately makes them better in literacy. This article focuses on children which makes defining a “musician” more difficult due to their limited time spent “mastering” an instrument. Instead of using something like M.U.S.E. which Dr. Dye’s talk did, the article uses children who are currently involved in learning an instrument vs. children who are just in musical education classes. The second half of the article compares kids who just listen to music vs. kids who are actively involved in making music. This definition is relevantly loose and leads me to question the legitimacy behind the findings. Dr. Dye’s presentation make me skeptical of using different definitions. In the case of this article, how is the reader to know if one kid who is involved in instrument play doing twice as much practice, or less practice? The use of children as the subjects of the article also leaves much to be questioned in terms of development and language learning. The article says that kids who are actively engaged in learning music had improvements in how their brain processes speech and reading scores. It seems unequivocal that learning and knowing how to play an instrument improves at least some parts of cognition for adults and children alike.
Weiss, Michael & Bidelman, Gavin. (2015). Listening to the Brainstem: Musicianship Enhances Intelligibility of Subcortical Representations for Speech. Journal of Neuroscience. 35. 1687–1691. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3680-14.2015.