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article imageBrains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

By Tim Sandle     Jan 21, 2018 in Science
Whether jazz or classic is the preference, the brains of musicians who excel in different music forms differ according to a neuroscience study.
The key finding from the research, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, is that the brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently. This is even when each musician is playing the same piece of music. It had previously been established by the researchers that a musician's brain is different to that of a non-musician.
The reason for the musician compared with non-musician divide is because composing or playing music requires the interplay of abilities that are reflected in more developed brain structures. These capabilities appear to be more embedded than had previously been realized.
This led to further study that found how the brain activity of jazz pianists differs significantly from those of classical pianists. This came to light when the neuroscientists requested pianists to play a harmonically unexpected chord within a standard chord progression. Here it was show how the jazz pianists' brains started to replan the actions much faster than those of the classical pianists. This was assessed using electroencephalography sensors fitted to on the back of the head of each musician studied. The electroencephalography sensors managed to detect the brain signals in the related brain regions responsible for action planing.
The difference could link to the differing skills required for jazz and classic musician: the need to skilfully interpret a classical piece or to creatively improvise in jazz number. There appears to be neural evidence for this difference.
The new findings are published in the peer-reviewed journal Neuroimage, with the research paper titled "Musical genre-dependent behavioural and EEG signatures of action planning. A comparison between classical and jazz pianists."
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