Tuning into the building blocks of language

MUSICAL games in childhood may play a previously unheralded role in learning how to read, a UK study suggests.

Around 60 children, half of whom were dyslexic, took part in a barrage of auditory tests and the most pronounced difference was seen in ability to detect changes in the “rise time” of a tone.

This was the equivalent, in speech, to the period it takes to pronounce a vowel.

“The simple task designed here to measure children’s perception of musical meter was indeed found to be associated with individual differences in rise time and intensity detection,” the authors said, adding the test was a “remarkably strong predictor of reading and spelling development”.

“The accurate perception of metrical structure may be critical for phonological development and consequently the development of literacy.”

Cortex 2011;47:674-89