Revisiting the "enigma" of musicians with dyslexia: Auditory sequencing and speech abilities

Jennifer Zuk, Paula Bishop-Liebler, Ola Ozernov-Palchik, Emma Moore, Katie Overy, Graeme Welch, Nadine Gaab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Previous research has suggested a link between musical training and auditory processing skills. Musicians have shown enhanced perception of auditory features critical to both music and speech, suggesting that this link extends beyond basic auditory processing. It remains unclear to what extent musicians who also have dyslexia show these specialized abilities, considering often-observed persistent deficits that coincide with reading impairments. The present study evaluated auditory sequencing and speech discrimination in 52 adults comprised of musicians with dyslexia, nonmusicians with dyslexia, and typical musicians. An auditory sequencing task measuring perceptual acuity for tone sequences of increasing length was administered. Furthermore, subjects were asked to discriminate synthesized syllable continua varying in acoustic components of speech necessary for intra-phonemic discrimination, which included spectral (formant frequency) and temporal (voice onset time (VOT) and amplitude envelope) features. Results indicate that musicians with dyslexia did not significantly differ from typical musicians and performed better than nonmusicians with dyslexia for auditory sequencing as well as discrimination of spectral and VOT cues within syllable continua. However, typical musicians demonstrated superior performance relative to both groups with dyslexia for discrimination of syllables varying in amplitude information. These findings suggest a distinct profile of speech processing abilities in musicians with dyslexia, with specific weaknesses in discerning amplitude cues within speech. Since these difficulties seem to remain persistent in adults with dyslexia despite musical training, this study only partly supports the potential for musical training to enhance the auditory processing skills known to be crucial for literacy in individuals with dyslexia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-511
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
Early online date30 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • dyslexia
  • musicians
  • auditory processing
  • speech


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