The part of the brain that interprets sound, known as the auditory cortex, responds faster in people with musical training and is better primed to pick out subtle patterns from the huge volumes of information that flood into the brain from our senses.
Neuroscientists have found that musicians benefit from heightened brain activity that allows them to process information from their eyes and ears more efficiently than non-musicians.
They found that the part of the brain that interprets sound, known as the auditory cortex, responds faster in people with musical training and is better primed to pick out subtle patterns from the huge volumes of information that flood into the brain from our senses.
Professor Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist and amateur musician at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has also found that this part of the brain plays a crucial role in reading.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Saturday, she called for music to become a more important part of school syllabuses to help children develop better reading and language skills.
She said: "There is a strong argument for more musical education, especially in schools.
"Our eyes and ears take in millions of bits of information every second and it is not possible for the brain to process all of that, so the sensory systems in our brains are primed to tune into regularities or patterns in the signals it receives.
"People who are musically trained are better at picking up these patterns because they learn to recognise notes and pitches within melodies and harmonies.
"The better you are at picking up these patterns in music, the better reader you are. This makes sense as letters and words on a page are really just patterns."
Professor Kraus and her team have used a method known as electroencephalography, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to examine how musicians and non-musicians brains respond to different stimulus.