Lecture | Nina Kraus | Sound and Brain Health: What Have We Learned from Music and Concussion
To make sense of sound, there is a wide activation of sensorimotor, cognitive, and reward circuitry in the brain. Active and repeated engagement with sounds that activate all these circuits, therefore, is a route to honing our brain function. Playing music is like hitting the jackpot for the brain because it requires the motor system, deeply engages our emotions, and absolutely gives us a cognitive workout. We have employed a biological approach, the frequency-following response (FFR), to reveal the integrity of sound processing in the brain and how these brain processes are shaped by music training. We have found that music works in synergistic partnerships with language skills and the ability to make sense of speech in noisy, everyday listening environments. We have found that music brings about a “speeding” of auditory system development, and a tendency toward a reversal of the biological impact of poverty-induced linguistic deprivation. The generalization from music to everyday communication illustrates both that these auditory brain mechanisms have a profound potential for plasticity and that sound processing is biologically intertwined with listening and language skills. In much the same way as music benefits sound processing in the brain, concussion brings about sound processing dysfunction, pointing to a role for auditory function assessment in the management of concussion. Together, these findings also have the potential to inform health care, education, and social policy by lending a neurobiological perspective to music education and the management of concussion.