ScienceDaily (July 14, 2009) — A child's brain has to work overtime in a noisy classroom to do its typical but very important job of distinguishing sounds whose subtle differences are key to success with language and reading.
But that simply is too much to ask of the nervous system of a subset of poor readers whose hearing is fine, but whose brains have trouble differentiating the "ba," "da" and "ga" sounds in a noisy environment, according to a new Northwestern University study.
"The 'b,' 'd' and 'g' consonants have rapidly changing acoustic information that the nervous system has to resolve to eventually match up sounds with letters on the page," said Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, where the work was performed.
In other words, the brain's unconscious faulty interpretation of sounds makes a big difference in how words ultimately will be read. "What your ear hears and what your brain interprets are not the same thing," Kraus stressed.
"The very transcription processes that are deficient in poor readers are enhanced in people with musical experience," Kraus said. "It makes sense for training programs for poor readers to involve music as well as speech sounds."