Scientific American casts a cold eye on music makers, and clinically reveals that yes, music really matters:
To record brain stem responses, the researchers placed electrodes on the heads of 30 people who were either musicians or non-musicians. The electrodes measured the electric currents that send signals through the brain stem, while the participants listened to an infant’s unhappy cry.
The surprising result was that the musicians’ brain showed enhanced responses to the infant’s cries. And the greater the number of years of practice and the earlier the person began training, the stronger the signal.
But how can musical training account for musicians’ advantage in detecting vocal emotion? Strait and her colleagues suggest that as we engage in activities that involve high levels of cognitive processing, such as memory or attention in music, we also enhance our sensory system’s responses.