Human hearing depends on a combination of cognitive and sensory processes that function by means of an interactive circuitry of bottom-up and top-down neural pathways, extending from the cochlea to the cortex and back again. Given that similar neural pathways are recruited to process sounds related to both music and language, it is not surprising that the auditory expertise gained over years of consistent music practice fine-tunes the human auditory system in a comprehensive fashion, strengthening neurobiological and cognitive underpinnings of both music and speech processing. In this review we argue not only that common neural mechanisms for speech and music exist, but that experience in music leads to enhancements in sensory and cognitive contributors to speech processing. Of specific interest is the potential for music training to bolster neural mechanisms that undergird language-related skills, such as reading and hearing speech in background noise, which are critical to academic progress, emotional health, and vocational success.
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