The specific focus of my individual project is to determine whether the known effects of music therapy on dyslexia in children are results of merely improved timing skills or of learning music as a topic area in general. To determine this, I plan to run an experiment in which dyslexic children will be divided into different treatment groups – timing group, music group, and art group – and improvement after a year of the treatment will be observed. In the timing group, my goal is to enhance the children’s timing skills without using music. To do this, I am thinking about using video games or sport skills, such as throwing and catching a ball. I will try to find sources that detail increased timing skill and perhaps give a specific technique or program that has been proven to enhance temporal skills. In the music group, children will actively learn music by listening to music, learning rhythms, learning basic notation, and other simple music skills. The arts group will provide a control and will involve the children learning to use different mediums of art and making art projects. I also plan to contact a prominent researcher on the topic of language deficiencies and music, Katie Overy, to see if she knows of any other helpful sources or could provide any insights or advice. My next steps involve deciding on the details of the experiment and locating any more sources that may contribute to my topic.
Question: Can musical rhythmic intervention improve the language skills of those with dyslexia? Do different types of intervention have different magnitudes of effect?
1.) Overy, K. (2006). Dyslexia and Music. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999, 497-505.
The underlying causes of the language and literacy difficulties experienced by dyslexic children are not yet fully understood, but current theories suggest that timing deficits may be a key factor. Dyslexic children have been found to exhibit timing difficulties in the domains of language, music, perception and cognition, as well as motor control. The author has previously suggested that group music lessons, based on singing and rhythm games, might provide a valuable multisensory support tool for dyslexic children by encouraging the development of important auditory and motor timing skills and subsequently language skills. In order to examine this hypothesis, a research program was designed that involved the development of group music lessons and musical tests for dyslexic children in addition to three experimental studies. It was found that classroom music lessons had a positive effect on both phonologic and spelling skills, but not reading skills. Results also indicated that dyslexic children showed difficulties with musical timing skills while showing no difficulties with pitch skills. These apparent disassociations between spelling and reading ability and musical timing and pitch ability are discussed. The results of the research program are placed in the context of a more general model of the potential relationship between musical training and improved language and literacy skills.
2.) Overy, K. (2000). Dyslexia, Temporal Processing and Music: The Potential of Music as an Early Learning Aid for Dyslexic Children. Psychology of Music, 28(2), 218-229.
There is extensive evidence suggesting that the language and literacy problems experienced by dyslexics are caused by deficits in various sensory, cognitive and motor processes. Several theories on the underlying cause of these deficits are converging on the idea that the fundamental problems derive from abnormal neurological timing, or “temporal processing”. It has been proposed that temporal processing ability can be improved through training, and that this will lead to improved language and literacy skills (Tallal et al., 1996). Music training, requiring very accurate timing skills, can offer a medium for the development and improvement of temporal processing ability, and thus may provide a valuable form of extra remediation for dyslexic children. This article reports some preliminary work in this area, which has produced encouraging results. Further research is also outlined.
3.) Overy, K., Nicolson, R., Fawcett, A., Clarke, E. (2003). Dyslexia and music: measuring musical timing skills. Dyslexia, 9(1), 18-36.
Over the last few decades, a growing amount of research has suggested that dyslexics have particular difficulties with skills involving accurate or rapid timing, including musical timing skills. It has been hypothesised that music training may be able to remediate such timing difficulties, and have a positive effect on fundamental perceptual skills that are important in the development of language and literacy skills (Overy, 2000). In order to explore this hypothesis further, the nature and extent of dyslexics’ musical difficulties need to be examined in more detail. In the present study, a collection of musical aptitude tests (MATs) were designed specifically for dyslexic children, in order to distinguish between a variety of musical skills and sub-skills. 15 dyslexic children (age 7–11, mean age 9.0) and 11 control children (age 7–10, mean age 8.9) were tested on the MATs, and their scores were compared. Results showed that the dyslexic group scored higher than the control group on 3 tests of pitch skills (possibly attributable to slightly greater musical experience), but lower than the control group on 7 out of 9 tests of timing skills. Particular difficulties were noted on one of the tests involving rapid temporal processing, in which a subgroup of 5 of the dyslexic children (33%) (mean age 8.4) was found to account for all the significant error. Also, an interesting correlation was found between spelling ability and the skill of tapping out the rhythm of a song, which both involve the skill of syllable segmentation. These results support suggestions that timing is a difficulty area for dyslexic children, and suggest that rhythm skills and rapid skills may need particular attention in any form of musical training with dyslexics. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The interaction between music and memory has been much researched and discussed. More specifically, it has been studied how the brain remembers a rhythm and what factors can effect how well a rhythm is remembered by the brain. The different pathways of the brain that occur when listening to or reproducing a rhythm have been traced out by numerous experiments. These studies of the mechanisms in the brain have been advanced by examining individuals with certain brain disorders thought to effect rhythmic perception. Outside of observing the systems of the brain, experiments have been conducted to determine what factors and to what extent these factors affect rhythm memory, such as presentation and complexity. It has been established that rhythm is to a degree a component of remembering a piece of music and that this skill is variant among individuals of different age groups, music abilities, and learning levels. A connection that has been made in recent studies is that between musical discrimination abilities and language-related skills. People with certain language defects have corresponding shortcomings in rhythmic synchronization and recognition. Also, disorders not directly related to language, such as autism, have been revealed to parallel rhythmic ability. This knowledge of association between music and levels of learning or social ability have also given rise to the theory that music intervention among affected individuals may provide benefits and assistance towards these deficiencies. This review first examines the mechanisms of the brain involved in rhythm perception and how we interpret rhythms of different kinds. It then discusses what is known about what influences how well a rhythm can be recalled. Later, this review discusses developmental disorders that may be associated with rhythm cognition and how music is trying to be used to combat these syndromes.
Research on rhythm has demonstrated how memory plays a part in the subdivision and division of music. Spontaneous groupings of rhythms arise within a piece of music, which shows limitations in our memory (Krumhansl 2000). In order for us to be able to make sense of what we are hearing and have expectations for what we are about to hear, our mind has to come up with a way to group the beats and rhythms of music in a coherent manner. Also, simpler ratios of beats such as 1:2 are easier to imitate than more complex ratios such as 1:3 (Krumhansl 2000). Perfomance differences in rhythmic ratio imitation experiments start to emerge among individuals with different musical backgrounds, suggesting a disparity in ability to recall a rhythm among groups with varying musical experience. This difference is further supported by an experiment conducted by Habibi, Wirantana, & Starr (2014). In this study, the researchers monitored behavioral and brain activity that occurred in both musicians and nonmusicians during rhythmic variations from pairs of unfamiliar melodies. Musicians greatly outperformed nonmusicians in detecting these deviations and showed greater activity in the frontal-central areas of the brain. These results suggest that musical training may have an effect on brain activity involved in processing temporal irregularities, even of unfamiliar melodies (Habibi, Wirantana, & Starr 2014). Attempts have also been made to divide rhythms into a hierarchy that is placed in different kinds of memory (Brower 1993). The ways in which rhythm has been defined and divided provides insight into how we perceive rhythms and why certain rhythms are easier to remember than others.
Many of the experimental studies that study participants’ abilities to reproduce rhythms reference rhythms that are similar. The term “similar” may seem subjective upon first hearing it, which is a potential problem of these studies. Cao, Lotstein, & Johnson-Laird (2014) took to objectively define similar rhythms and look at the specific characteristics that make up related rhythms. Their experiments displayed that rhythms of the same “families” had the same pattern of interonset intervals, which is the space between the start of two adjacent tones (Cao, Lotstein, & Johnson-Laird 2014). Their experiments also revealed that errors in reproducing rhythms by tapping often yielded rhythms of the same family. This shows that temporal patterns in rhythms play a major role in how we perceive rhythms to be similar, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Manipulating aspects of a rhythm has been shown to have a variety of effects on how well participants can remember and reproduce a certain rhythm. The best cue for identifying a piece of music is the combination of rhythm and pitch (Hébert & Peretz 1997). In their experiment, Hébert and Peretz (1997) demonstrated that rhythm alone tends to be an insignificant indicator of a musical excerpt and less effective than pitch alone. On the other hand, other studies demonstrate the strength of melody recall with rhythm over pitch. Silverman (2010) revealed in his experiment that participants were better able to digitally recall musical excerpts with the condition of only being presented with the rhythm of a melody. In this study, participants listened to six treatment conditions of a melodic excerpt and were asked to demonstrate their memory of the different conditions by a digital recall task. Participants showed the greatest error with the pitch only and both rhythm and pitch conditions (Silverman 2010). Familiarity showed no effect in this experiment. Also, music majors outperformed non-music majors, another indication that musical experience plays in a role in rhythmic recall. A specific manipulation of rhythm that has shown to have an effect on recall is the presentation of the rhythm. Shehan (1987) showed that in second- and sixth- grade students, rhythm reproduction performance was much higher for a combination of aural and visual presentation, rather than one type of presentation alone. Also, the sixth-grade participants learned the rhythm twice as quickly as the second-grade participants (Shehan 1987). This reveals how maturation and age have a large effect on the ability to remember and recall a rhythm. Information gained from this experiment could be used to improve music education for children in presenting rhythms in a manner that is more efficient for them to learn it.
Rhythmic patterns and memory capabilities have been examined in individuals with various developmental or learning disabilities. One group of people who has been studied is those with amusia. Amusia is a loss or impairment of musical capabilities usually caused by brain disease or an injury to the brain. Results of experiments testing those with amusia have suggested that pitch and rhythm processing centers in the brain are independent of each other. Murayama, Kashiwagi, Kashiwagi, & Mimura (2004) found that participants with amusia still showed preserved rhythmic memory, even though their pitch memory was damaged. This supports the theory that pitch and rhythm operate on separate neural subsystems (Murayama, Kashiwagi, Kashiwagi, & Mimura 2004). Rhythmic processing appears to be spared in pitch deafness as well (Phillips-Silver, Tolvalnin, Gosselin, & Peretz 2013). However, other experiments have observed extreme difficulty among amusic individuals in synchronizing to musical rhythms. No such difficulty was seen in synchronizing to noise bursts, which suggests that timing impairments among amusic people are limited to music (Bella & Peretz 2006). These sometime conflicting results call attention for the need of more experimentation perhaps with stronger manipulations.
Many studies have explored the relationship between music and learning. These studies have focused on children, since this is a time of significant learning. I will focus on the studies examining the affects of dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder, on music perception. It has been shown that in children with dyslexia, musical discrimination predicts phonological skills (Forgeard, Schlaug, Norton, Rosam, & Iyengar 2008). Accurate perception of musical structures is related to literacy development in children (Huss, Verney, Fosker, Mead, & Goswami 2011). Also, children without dyslexia generally outperform those with dyslexia in rhythm recall tasks. The correlation of linguistic abilities and musical abilities indicates that linguistic and non-linguistic auditory input are connected and involved in tasks that directly relate with developmental problems, such as reading (Anvari, Trainor, Woodside, & Levy 2002). Results such as these have prompted research to test whether musical intervention in children with disorders such as dyslexia may help improve reading or linguistic skills. One such experiment introduced a short-term music curriculum in second-grade students with and without a specific learning disability (Register, Darrow, Swedberg, & Standley 2007). Significant improvement in word knowledge and reading skills were observed in both groups, showing that improved musical skills may also translate to improved linguistic skills.
Much ground has been made in the study of memory and rhythm. In particular, the connection that rhythmic perception and memory have with skill areas outside of music such as language is now better understood. These results can be used in the future to better education and improve reading skills in youth, which are enormous applications that will hopefully prove to be extremely beneficial in the near future.
Shehan, P. (1987). Effects of rote versus note presentation of rhythm learning and retention. Journal of Research in Music Education, 35(2), 117-26.
Silverman, M. (2010). The effect of pitch, rhythm, and familiarity on working memory and anxiety as measured by digit recall performance. Journal of Music Therapy, 47(1), 70-83.
Cao, E., Lotstein, M., & Johnson-Laird, P. (2014). Similarity and families of musical rhythms. Music Perception, 31(5), 444-469.
Krumhansl, C. (2000). Rhythm and pitch in music cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 126(1), 159-179.
Huss, M., Verney, J., Fosker, T., Mead, N., & Goswami, U. (2011). Music, rhythm, rise time perception and developmental dyslexia: Perception of musical meter predicts reading and phonology. Cortex, 47(6), 674-689.
Hébert, S., & Peretz, I. (1997). Recognition of music in long-term memory: Are melodic and temporal patterns equal partners? Memory and Cognition, 25(4), 518-533.
Brower, C. (1993). Memory and the Perception of Rhythm. Music Theory Spectrum, 15(1), 19-35.
Habibi, A., Wirantana, V., & Starr, A. (2014). Cortical Activity During Perception of Musical Rhythm: Comparing Musicians and Nonmusicians. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, 24(2), 125-135.
Phillips-Silver, J., Toiviainen, P., Gosselin, N., & Peretz, I. (2013). Amusic does not mean unmusical: Beat perception and synchronization ability despite pitch deafness. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 30(5), 311-331.
Bhide, A., Power, A., & Goswami, U. (2013). A rhythmic musical intervention for poor readers: A comparison of efficacy with a letter-based intervention. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(2), 113-123.
Anvari, S., Trainor, L., Woodside, J., & Levy, B. (2002). Relations among musical skills, phonological processing, and early reading ability in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 83(2), 111-130.
Bella, S., & Peretz, I. (2003). Congenital Amusia Interferes with the Ability to Synchronize with Music. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999, 166-169.
Register, D., Darrow, A., Swedberg, O., & Standley, J. (2007). The Use of Music to Enhance Reading Skills of Second Grade Students and Students with Reading Disabilities. Journal of Music Therapy, 44(1), 23-37.
Forgeard, M., Schlaug, G., Norton, A., Rosam, C., Iyengar, U., & Winner, E. (2008). The Relation Between Music and Phonological Processing in Normal-Reading Children and Children with Dyslexia. Music Perception, 25(4), 383-390.
Murayama, J., Kashiwagi, T., Kashiwagi, A., & Mimura, M. (2004). Impaired pitch production and preserved rhythm production in a right brain-damaged patient with amusia. Brain and Cognition, 56(1), 36-42.
1.) Shehan, P. (1987). Effects of rote versus note presentation of rhythm learning and retention. Journal Of Research In Music Education, 35(2), 117-26.
This source compares how well second- and sixth-grade students can learn and retain musical rhythms presented either visually or aurally. It compares the differences in how well these children of different ages can learn a rhythm and which style of presentation is easiest to pick up.
2.) Silverman, M. (2010). The effect of pitch, rhythm, and familiarity on working memory and anxiety as measured by digit recall performance. Journal Of Music Therapy, 47(1), 70-83.
This source is useful in dissecting the difference of roles of rhythm and pitch in recalling a musical pattern. It also compares results of musicians versus non-musicians, which is a point of interest in my topic.
3.) Cao, E., Lotstein, M., & Johnson-Laird, P. (2014). Similarity and families of musical rhythms. Music Perception, 31(5), 444-469.
This source is helpful in determining what aspects make certain rhythms similar to others. This is useful in my discussion of how familiarity of a rhythm may determine how well one can pick it up, since one presumably would be more familiar with a rhythm similar to other familiar rhythms.
4.) Krumhansl, C. (2000). Rhythm and pitch in music cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 126(1), 159-179.
This source focuses on how rhythm and pitch are perceived and remembered. It looks at different scales of remembering musical phrases and attempts to link musical structure with cognitive processes. This is useful in understanding the mechanisms that occur in the brain when rhythms are trying to be recalled.
5.) Huss, M., Verney, J., Fosker, T., Mead, N., & Goswami, U. (2011). Music, rhythm, rise time perception and developmental dyslexia: Perception of musical meter predicts reading and phonology. Cortex, 47(6), 674-689.
In this article, the authors hypothesize that ability to detect a musical rhythm is related to literacy development in children. This source is helpful in connecting how skilled one is in recognizing a rhythm with non-musical tasks.
6.) Hébert, S., & Peretz, I. (1997). Recognition of music in long-term memory: Are melodic and temporal patterns equal partners? Memory and Cognition, 25(4), 518-533.
This article examines the role that rhythm and melody play in recalling a piece of music. Results showed that a combination of the two is the most effective in retrieving music from long-term memory. This is useful for my topic in showing the relationship that rhythm and memory have.
7.) Brower, C. (1993). Memory and the Perception of Rhythm. Music Theory Spectrum, 15(1), 19-35.
This article analyzes the roles of three different types of memory and how they interact with a hierarchy of rhythmic levels. This is useful in my examination of how the brain remembers certain rhythms and what aspects make it easier or harder to retain.
8.) Habibi, A., Wirantana, V., & Starr, A. (2014). Cortical Activity During Perception of Musical Rhythm: Comparing Musicians and Nonmusicians. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, 24(2), 125-135.
This article studies the brain activities in musicians and non-musicians when exposed to differing rhythm patterns. This is helpful in my comparison of musicians and non-musicians in rhythm recognition and retrieval. If different mechanisms are working in the brain between these two groups when hearing a certain type of rhythm, this is significant.
9.) Phillips-Silver, J., Toiviainen, P., Gosselin, N., & Peretz, I. (2013). Amusic does not mean unmusical: Beat perception and synchronization ability despite pitch deafness. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 30(5), 311-331.
This article reveals that amusic individuals are able to recognize meter when presented nonpitched musical excerpts. It concludes that rhythm perception is spared in deafness. This is useful in learning about which parts of the brain are necessary and which are not needed for rhythmic perception.
10.) Bhide, A., Power, A., & Goswami, U. (2013). A rhythmic musical intervention for poor readers: A comparison of efficacy with a letter-based intervention. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(2), 113-123.
This source tries to determine whether rhythmic musical intervention would help children with reading difficulties improve their literacy. This is important in that is shows whether we can use rhythm and the brain’s role in recognizing rhythm for the purpose of helping those with problems unrelated to music.
As shown by studies we have examined in class, our memories are limited. This limitation of our memories results in many of the occurrences that happen when listening to music. I would like to examine how efficient our memory is at remembering and restating rhythms of different familiarities, complexities, and presentations. My question is to examine to what extent does the complexity and presentation of a rhythm affect how well and quickly one can remember it. Also, an area of interest within this topic is whether there is a significant difference of results between age groups and musical ability levels.
Recent studies have shown that older children tend to learn rhythmic patterns at a much quicker rate than younger children, suggesting variances among rhythmic memories between different age groups. It may be that as certain parts of the brain develop, rhythmic memory is enhanced. This could help us understand which parts of the brain in particular are critical in retaining a rhythm. It has also been shown that musicians tend to be better than non-musicians at recalling a rhythm. This may be due to certain areas of the brain being more highly trained and utilized in musicians than in non-musicians.
Observing how well our memory can hold onto different types of rhythms may provide insight on what our mind prioritizes and how information regarding rhythmic input is organized. It may also show what we can consciously recall based off of the differing rhythmic stimuli. The information obtained from these studies could be used to better understand the mental processes used to hear and recall a rhythm. Effects of this knowledge may be the improvement of music education, since knowing the particular capabilities of certain age groups and musical abilities could enable a curriculum designed to fit those capabilities.