Music training relates to the development of neural mechanisms of selective auditory attention

Dana L. Strait, Jessica Slater, Samantha O'Connell, Nina Kraus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Selective attention decreases trial-to-trial variability in cortical auditory-evoked activity. This effect increases over the course of maturation, potentially reflecting the gradual development of selective attention and inhibitory control. Work in adults indicates that music training may alter the development of this neural response characteristic, especially over brain regions associated with executive control: in adult musicians, attention decreases variability in auditory-evoked responses recorded over prefrontal cortex to a greater extent than in nonmusicians. We aimed to determine whether this musician-associated effect emerges during childhood, when selective attention and inhibitory control are under development. We compared cortical auditory-evoked variability to attended and ignored speech streams in musicians and nonmusicians across three age groups: preschoolers, school-aged children and young adults. Results reveal that childhood music training is associated with reduced auditory-evoked response variability recorded over prefrontal cortex during selective auditory attention in school-aged child and adult musicians. Preschoolers, on the other hand, demonstrate no impact of selective attention on cortical response variability and no musician distinctions. This finding is consistent with the gradual emergence of attention during this period and may suggest no pre-existing differences in this attention-related cortical metric between children who undergo music training and those who do not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-104
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Children
  • Cortical
  • Language
  • Musicians
  • Response Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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