Purpose: We review a series of experiments aimed at studying pitch processing in music and speech. These studies were conducted with musician and non musician adults and children. We found that musical expertise improved pitch processing not only in music but also in speech. Demonstrating transfer of training between music and language has interesting applications for second language learning. We also addressed the issue of whether the positive effects of musical expertise are linked with specific predispositions for music or with extensive musical practice. Results of longitudinal studies argue for the later. Finally, we also examined pitch processing in dyslexic children and found that they had difficulties discriminating strong pitch changes that are easily discriminate by normal readers. These results argue for a strong link between basic auditory perception abilities and reading abilities.
Methods: We used conjointly the behavioral method (Reaction Times and error rates) and the electrophysiological method (recording of the changes in brain electrical activity time-locked to stimulus presentation, Event-Related brain Potentials or ERPs).
Results: A set of common processes may be responsible for pitch processing in music and in speech and these processes are shaped by musical practice.
Conclusion: These data add evidence in favor of brain plasticity and open interesting perspectives for the remediation of dyslexia using musical training.