BME Professors Anne Luebke and Ross Maddox along with Co-PI Elizabeth Marvin (Eastman School of Music) have received an award from the National Science Foundation for their project, "NeuroDataRR. Collaborative Research: Testing the relationship between musical training and enhanced neural coding and perception in noise." This is a collaborative effort involving several universities: University of Minnesota (Dr. Andrew Oxenham, Lead PI), Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, University of Western Ontario, and the University of Rochester.
This project will determine whether formal musical training is associated with enhanced neural processing and perception of sounds, including speech in noisy backgrounds. Music forms an important part of the lives of millions of people around the world, and it is one of the few universals shared by all known human cultures. Yet its utility and potential evolutionary advantages remain a mystery. This project will test the hypothesis that early musical exposure has benefits that extend beyond music to critical aspects of human communication, such as speech perception in noise. In addition, this project will test whether early musical training is associated with less severe effects of ageing on the ability to understand speech in noisy backgrounds. Degraded ability to understand speech in noise is a common complaint among older listeners, and one that can have a profound impact on quality of life, as has been shown by the associations between hearing loss, social isolation, and more rapid cognitive and health declines. If formal musical training is shown to be associated with improved perception and speech communication in later life, the outcomes could have a potentially major impact on many aspects of public and educational policy.