Effects of Music Training and Therapy on Dyslexic Individuals

Using musical training for the remediation of dyslexia and language disorders is based on both theoretical considerations and experimental results. If there are common underlying processes between music and language, especially between music perception and speech perception, one might assume that improving some of the processes involved in the perception of music can also improve speech perception and reading skills (e.g., Goswami et al., 2002; Patel, 2003, 2012; Kraus and Chandrasekaran, 2010; Besson et al., 2011; Corrigall and Trainor, 2011). In one of the first studies aimed at testing this hypothesis, Overy (2000, 2003) proposed a series of music games gradually increasing in difficulty and focusing on pace and “timing” skills to dyslexic children over a period of 15 weeks. Results showed significant improvements, not in reading skills, but in two related areas: phonological processing and spelling. More recently, Cogo-Moreira et al. (2012, 2013) reported that musical training had positive effects on reading skills and educational achievement in children and adolescents with dyslexia and Weiss et al. (2014) showed that adult musician dyslexics performed better than non-musician normal readers on various pitch interval discrimination tasks, finger rhythmic tapping, and speech in noise perception tasks.

The importance of word metric structure and, specificially, rise-time perception for speech processing has been stressed by Goswami et al. (2002). They proposed that misalignments between neuronal excitability fluctuations in the auditory regions and maximum amplitudes in the speech signal may be related to phonological disabilities in children with dyslexia (Power et al., 2013). In line with this view, Bishop-Liebler et al. (2014) recently reported that adult musician dyslexics were better than non-musician dyslexics on various tests of temporal auditory processing and specifically for processing temporal envelope and “rise time.” In addition, musician dyslexics outperformed their non-musician peers on reading scores and also, to a lesser extent, on phonological awareness. Similarly, Flaugnacco et al. (2014) showed that, among other rhythm production and perception tasks, the level of performance on a metric perception task (i.e., perceiving changes in note duration within recurrent series) specifically predicted both reading speed and accuracy as well as phonological processing in Italian dyslexics. The authors concluded that their results strongly encourage the use of music training in dyslexia rehabilitation, and specifically recommended to “focus on rhythm rather than on pitch accuracy as is often the case in classical music pedagogy.” This recommendation is in line with recent work from the Kraus group (Slater et al., 2013), examining the effect of 1 year musical training based on the perception of pitch, rhythm (tapping in synchrony with a given tempo) and improvisation. The level of performance of 8 year-old children considered “at risk” for learning disability and who received this musical training was significantly higher than matched controls in the synchrony tapping task. Going one step further, Przybylski et al. (2013) examined the influence of rhym perception on syntactic processing. They presented to language and reading impaired chidren a rhythmic prime (a succesion of notes played either regularly or irregularly), immediately followed by a spoken sentence that was syntactically correct or incorrect (e.g., “Laura has/have forgotten her violin”). Results showed a clear superiority for regular over irregular rhythmic primes on the chidren’s performance in the syntactic task. Based on these results, the authors proposed to use rhythmic stimulation in remediation protocols designed for chidren with oral and written language developmental disorders (see also Cason and Schön, 2012; Cason et al., 2015, for similar results with prelingually deaf children).

Music training may provide an ideal tool for such a new perspective: it allows considering each one of the multiple facets of dyslexia as a potential target to be improved. In this respect, music training may be one of the most complete and rational ways of treating dyslexia. Whatever the exact mechanism(s) subserving the observed improvements, their occurrence after relatively short sessions of musical training opens interesting avenues for future research as well as practical applications. First, our results suggest that several cognitive functions, including reading but not only, may be improved by adding a musical content to classical speech therapy and remediation of dyslexia. Our view is that such training could usefully complement more classical methods, in particular when they have been used extensively but children still need reeducation. Second, as others have also noted (Heim et al., 2015), the improvement may depend upon two main features of the CMT method; an intensive training and that this training is given collectively to small groups of children. Finally, our results open new avenues for future research. For instance, it would be of interest to include recording of electrophysiological or neuroimaging data, to assess the brain changes underlying the observed improvements. Also, direct comparisons with other remediation methods could provide important additional understanding of the exact nature of the improved processes, for example by comparing musical training to more specific attentional or phonological training. Finally, testing the hypothesis of impaired connectivity in other neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyscalculia (Srinivasan and Bhat, 2013) would certainly contribute to enrich the “The Dyslexia Debate” (Elliott and Grigorenko, 2014).

SOURCE: Michel Habib, Chloé Lardy, Tristan Desiles, Céline Commeiras, Julie Chobert, and Mireille Besson (2016) “Music and Dyslexia: A New Musical Training Method to Improve Reading and Related Disorders”


Maestra Celeste S. Sanchez, MT
Ms. Maricel G. Morales, Viva Artist
Prof. Shedy Dee C. Mallari, LPT, RPm
Ms. Karen M. Atendido, Seiko Artist
Maestro Conrado Manuel N. Del Rosario
Dr. Peter Charles Kutschera, PhD, LMSW
Dr. Homer J. Yabut, PhD, RPsy
Prof. Alain Bernard A. Andal, MA, LPT, RPm, RGC
Pastor Robert Albios
Atty. Francisco S. Yabut
Instructor John Vernon Nuguid
Instructor Manuel S. Cordero
Prof. Jose Maria G. Pelayo III. MASD

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