Relationship between musical and language abilities in post-stroke aphasia


Background The relationship between structural processing in music and language can be viewed from two perspectives: whether the neural processing of music and language recruits shared neural resources, and whether musical ability is associated with neuroplas- tic resilience against language impairment.
Aims This study investigated music and language processing in persons who developed aphasia (PWA) following left-hemisphere stroke, and asked three questions: (1) whether musical structure processing is compromised in PWA, (2) whether there is a relationship between the processing of musical and linguistic structure, and (3) if prior musical ability is associated with post-stroke music and language task performance.
Methods & Procedures: Procedures included four computer-based tasks of sensitivity to structure in music and language, testing of general language impairment, and questionnaires on musical sophistication in 23 PWA.
Outcomes & Results: This study found that PWA’s processing of musical structure was unimpaired relative to neurotypical controls. This was also the case for individuals with agrammatic aphasia, who have a specific deficit in syntactic formulation. Second, music and language structural processing performance was not correlated in the healthy or aphasic group. Third, in PWA, prior musical ability correlated positively with implicit structural processing of music and language, and negatively with aphasia severity. The relationship between musical ability (years of music lessons) and aphasia severity was stronger when combined with an additional group of 15 PWA. Conclusions: These findings suggest that while structural proces- sing of music and language is dissociated in neurotypical individuals and in those with left-hemisphere damage, there may be a potential for neuroplastic effects of musical training on language impairment.