Effects of musical experience on children's language and brain development

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The present thesis investigated the maturation of children’s neural speech-sound discrimination, its links to behavioral linguistic measures and whether participating music playschool affects these skills. Neural speech-sound discrimination was studied by recording children’s (N=75) event-related potentials (ERP) to different speech-sound changes with electroencephalography (EEG), four times in a longitudinal setting starting at the age of 4 to 5. Similarly, children’s neurocognitive skills were assessed four times during the 20 months of the follow-up. Children attending music playschool were compared to children partaking in dance lessons or not attending either one of these activities. The results suggest that the 5–6-year-old children’s neural speech-sound discrimination reflected by their Mismatch negativity (MMN) responses has an association with phoneme processing skills. Larger MMN amplitudes were found for children scoring higher in Phoneme processing test. The intelligence measures were not associated with the brain responses. During the follow-up, children’s MMN, P3a and Late discriminative negativity (LDN) responses to phoneme deviations changed, reflecting maturation of auditory change detection. The amplitudes for the MMN response increased and for the LDN decreased for several speech-sound features. Furthermore, the P3a shifted towards adult-like positivity for some sound features. Thus, it seems that even for speech-sounds constantly heard in every-day life of children, the discrimination is still immature at the age of 5–6. The linguistic skills improved more for children partaking in music playschool than for children attending in dance lessons or not participating in either. The magnitude of improvement was dependent on the duration of participation and was evident for phoneme processing skills and vocabulary knowledge. Similar effects did not emerge for perceptual reasoning or inhibition skills. However, music playschool did not modulate children’s neural speech-sound discrimination, suggesting that the passively elicited neural modulation associated with the development of linguistic skills are not simplistically linked with the auditory detection of the speech-sound changes. The results highlight the usefulness of change- induced auditory ERPs in indexing i) linguistic skills and ii) maturation of neural auditory discrimination of speech-sounds in childhood, and further demonstrates iii) the beneficial role of structured but playful music sessions for children’s linguistic development.
Original languageEnglish
  • Tervaniemi, Mari, Supervisor
  • Putkinen, Vesa, Supervisor
  • Huotilainen, Minna, Supervisor
Award date17 Jan 2019
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-4793-6
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-4794-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Bibliographical note

M1 - 81 s. + liitteet

Fields of Science

  • Music
  • Voice
  • Speech
  • Language Development
  • Brain
  • +growth & development
  • Auditory Perception
  • Dancing
  • Intelligence
  • Singing
  • Learning
  • Vocabulary
  • Child, Preschool
  • Noise
  • 6163 Logopedics
  • 515 Psychology

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