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      Childhood music lessons may create better listeners

      (HealthDay News){}Adults who studied music duringchildhood have an improved ability to process sounds and are better listeners,according to a new study.

      Northwestern Universityresearchers who looked at 45 adults found that compared to those with nomusical training during childhood, those with even a few years of musicaltraining as children had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds. Most inthe study had begun music lessons at about age 9.

      This made them more effectiveat hearing the fundamental frequency, the study found. This is the lowestfrequency in sound and is crucial for speech and music perception, and enablesrecognition of sounds in complex and noisy hearing settings.

      "Thus, musical training aschildren makes better listeners later in life," Nina Kraus, a professor ofneurobiology, physiology and communication sciences, said in a university newsrelease.

      "Based on what we alreadyknow about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests thatshort-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning," sheadded.

      The participants were dividedinto three groups: those with no musical training, those with one to five yearsof lessons, and those with six to 11 years.

      Many children take musiclessons for a few years, but few continue with formal music instruction beyondmiddle or high school.

      "We help address aquestion on every parent's mind: 'Will my child benefit if she plays music fora short while but then quits training?'" Kraus said.

      The study was published in theAug. 22 issue of the{}Journal of Neuroscience.

      While the research showed anassociation between musical training and better listening skills, it does notprove a cause-and-effect relationship.