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article imagePractice makes for a good musician

By Tim Sandle     Mar 15, 2014 in Science
Although musicians need a natural talent, new research suggests that by practicing music causes changes in the brain's neural network.
Researchers at McGill University have shown that performing music helps people remember and recognize the composition. This is thanks to the brain’s motor network.
To show this, psychology professor Caroline Palmer and her colleagues asked 20 skilled pianists to learn simple melodies, either by simply listening to them or by performing them. The musicians were then equipped with electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes to monitor the electrical activities of their brains while they listened to the same melodies, some of which had been tainted with wrong notes.
The researchers found that for songs that the musicians had performed themselves, about 200 milliseconds after hearing incorrect notes, the pianists’ brains exhibited larger changes in brain waves and more increased motor activity, as compared with songs they had only heard.
The research suggests that the ability to recognize an incorrect note depends on the comparison of incoming auditory stimuli with stored motor information.
In a research note the scientists stated: “We found that pianists were better at recognizing pitch changes in melodies they had performed earlier. Our paper provides new evidence that motor memories play a role in improving listeners’ recognition of tones they have previously performed."
The findings have been published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, in a paper titled "Sensorimotor Learning Enhances Expectations During Auditory Perception."
In separate research, a group of scientists have taken a different path, suggesting that an appreciation of music is partially genetic.
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