The study was presented at the Society for Neurosciences annual meeting on November 16, and will be published in December in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Musical training, the study found, helps the brain distinguish between sounds in a way that affects language use. The study's results could lead to ways to help children who suffer from dyslexia, since reading ability is related to processing language.
The study focused on adults who began musical training before age 7 and continue to play in the present, but may be expanded to include children next summer.
Michael Kamil, an education professor at Stanford, said that the study's findings should not be overestimated by parents. He told the paper, "We need to make sure we're not promising parents and kids that there are these magic bullets they can rely on—that they don't have to work at learning to read, that they can play music."
Another study presented at the Society for Neurosciences meeting examined how training to be a conductor enhances cooperation of the senses, or multisensory processing.
The research was conducted by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Music Research Center.
Donald A. Hodges, a professor of music education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said, "Our research suggests that conductors are better able to combine and use auditory and visual clues than the musically untrained. The conductors were also significantly better at locating sounds in space and using sound to locate objects."