Tone Language Speakers and Musicians Share Enhanced Perceptual and Cognitive Abilities for Musical Pitch: Evidence for Bidirectionality between the Domains of Language and Music
OPEN PloS one | 9 Apr 2013
GM Bidelman, S Hutka and S Moreno
Psychophysiological evidence suggests that music and language are intimately coupled such that experience/training in one domain can influence processing required in the other domain. While the influence of music on language processing is now well-documented, evidence of language-to-music effects have yet to be firmly established. Here, using a cross-sectional design, we compared the performance of musicians to that of tone-language (Cantonese) speakers on tasks of auditory pitch acuity, music perception, and general cognitive ability (e.g., fluid intelligence, working memory). While musicians demonstrated superior performance on all auditory measures, comparable perceptual enhancements were observed for Cantonese participants, relative to English-speaking nonmusicians. These results provide evidence that tone-language background is associated with higher auditory perceptual performance for music listening. Musicians and Cantonese speakers also showed superior working memory capacity relative to nonmusician controls, suggesting that in addition to basic perceptual enhancements, tone-language background and music training might also be associated with enhanced general cognitive abilities. Our findings support the notion that tone language speakers and musically trained individuals have higher performance than English-speaking listeners for the perceptual-cognitive processing necessary for basic auditory as well as complex music perception. These results illustrate bidirectional influences between the domains of music and language.
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