Heightened connection between physical and mental activity to the perception of sound in athletes discussed by The New York Times
In this article, Gretchen Reynolds reports on a study recently published in Sports Health, comparing the sound-processing abilities of student athletes to those of non-athlete students. The study, which is still on-going, is being performed by researchers, including Dr. Nina Kraus, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The research includes assessing the brainwaves of almost 500 Division I male and female athletes and almost 500 other students, in response to hearing specified sounds, specifically the syllable “da”. The hypothesis of Dr. Kraus and her collaborators was that the brains of student athletes would be better at processing sounds than the brains of regular students. This proved to be true according to the data that they have collected, thus far. This superior hearing ability possessed by athletes is thought to be due to their habitual training to listening for specified sounds, such as the commands of coaches and teammates, in an already noise-filled environment.
The research study is clearly and concisely described by Reynolds. Her article presents the study’s findings without author opinion and without appeal to the emotions of the reader. The article is free from the scientific jargon that is present in the original research article, making it an easy read which communicates the same findings.
In addition to presenting the ultimate conclusions of the research study, Reynolds should have expanded her explanation of the methods employed by the researchers, which would have contributed to a more in-depth understanding of the scientific process by the readers. As the article only used sources from within the original research article, and failed to consult independent sources, it is rather biased reporting. Nonetheless, this is a great article that successfully and accurately communicates the interesting findings of the examined research study.
The author of this news story, Gretchen Reynolds, presents an interesting cross-sectional study from Dr. Nina Kraus describing a positive correlation between physical or mental activity and the perception and response of that sound. Kraus and colleagues attached electrodes to their subjects and measured brain wave activity when the syllable “da” was played at irregular intervals. The results of this study showed that brains of trained musicians have greater processing activity than their non-musical counterparts. Additionally, Kraus found that young athletes displayed similar spikes of brain processing ability that were different than other students. In essence, musical and athletic students were able to tune out extraneous noise to better select a desirable sound.
The information presented is easy to understand and lacks technical jargon not suitable for a public audience. Reynolds does not jump to conclusions and states that it is unknown whether “being an athlete changed the young people’s brains or whether they succeeded as athletes because they were better at sound processing from the start”. This statement is critical to avoid any conclusions drawn from this cross-sectional study, which improves the knowledge transfer from the researchers to the audience.
Reynolds solely uses the article from Kraus and colleagues to present this news story. To make this news story more comprehensive, Reynolds could have included additional independent sources to further explain elements of the research article. For example, a vague description of how the brain processes sound is provided, and a more in-depth explanation would improve the comprehensiveness and understanding of this article.
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