Music-related abilities among readers with dyslexia

Abstract

Research suggests that a central difficulty in dyslexia may be impaired rapid temporal processing. Good temporal processing is also needed for musical perception, which relies on the ability to detect rapid changes. Our study is the first to measure the perception of adults with and without dyslexia on all three dimensions of music (rhythm, pitch, and spectrum), as well as their capacity for auditory imagery and detection of slow changes, while controlling for working memory. Participants were undergraduate students, aged 20–35 years: 26 readers with dyslexia and 30 typical readers. Participants completed a battery of tests measuring aptitude for recognizing the similarity/difference in tone pitch or rhythm, spectral resolution, vividness/control of auditory imagination, the ability to detect slow changes in auditory stimuli, and working memory. As expected, readers with dyslexia showed poorer performance in pitch and rhythm than controls, but outperformed them in spectral perception. The data for each test was analyzed separately while controlling for the letter-number sequencing score. No differences between groups were found in slow-change detection or auditory imagery. Our results demonstrated that rapid temporal processing appears to be the main difficulty of readers with dyslexia, who demonstrated poorer performance when stimuli were presented quickly rather than slowly and better performance on a task when no temporal component was involved. These findings underscore the need for further study of temporal processing in readers with dyslexia. Remediation of temporal processing deficits may unmask the preserved or even superior abilities of people with dyslexia, leading to enhanced ability in all areas that utilize the temporal component.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Shira Chana Bienstock for her thorough editorial review of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Adi Lifshitz-Ben-Basat.

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In the present study, we tested the three dimensions of music: rhythm, pitch, and spectrum, among readers with dyslexia, as compared with typical readers. We also tested their auditory imagery and the ability to detect slow changes. The results showed that readers with dyslexia were poorer than typical readers in tests where the stimuli were presented rapidly, namely in rhythm and pitch perception. However, in spectrum perception, when stimuli were presented with no temporal changes, readers with dyslexia outperformed typical readers. These findings show that a dyslexia-related difficulty in temporal processing not only interferes with achieving typical-reading performance but also masks the superior abilities of people with dyslexia.

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Lifshitz-Ben-Basat, A., Fostick, L. Music-related abilities among readers with dyslexia. Ann. of Dyslexia 69, 318–334 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-019-00185-7

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Keywords

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyslexia and music
  • Pitch perception
  • Speech perception