Cognitive benefits of lessons may be music to pitch-perfect ears

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 July, 2010, 12:00am

Why study Putonghua, besides the fact that China is taking over the world? Actually, it might make you smarter. Well, not just Putonghua but any tonal language. It's been known for several years that such languages imbue pitch sensitivity by enhancing the ability of some native speakers to name a musical note just by listening to it.

Now, a new study explains other benefits. US neuroscientists Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran, of Northwestern University, argue in the latest issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience that music training reshapes the brain in ways that convey other cognitive benefits. The changes throughout the auditory system help enhance memory and pattern recognition besides music processing.

So, fanatical Hong Kong parents who force their children to take music lessons after a hard day at school could be right after all.

But chronic fatigue, stress and pressure have been known to have an incapacitating effect on the development of young brains. Also, another recent study finds that having perfect pitch does not necessarily make you more musical. Beethoven, remember, was deaf.