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Training and experience can affect brain organization, research shows
Date:11/4/2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research comparing music conductors and non-musicians shows that both the conductors and the non-musicians tuned out their visual sense while performing a difficult hearing task. As the task became harder, however, only the non-musicians tuned out more of their visual sense, indicating that the training and experience of the conductors changed how their brains work.

The research, a joint project of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) Music Research Institute, was presented today at the 37th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Calif.

The study involved 20 conductors and 20 musically untrained subjects. The subjects were between the ages of 28-40, and the conductors had an average of more than 10 years of experience as a band or orchestra director in middle or high school.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows which areas of the brain are active during a task. The scanner confirmed that while activity increased in the auditory part of the brain during the hearing task, activity in the visual part actually decreased.

Imagine the difference between listening to somebody talk in a quiet room, and that same discussion in a noisy room. You dont see as much of whats going on in the noisy room. This is like closing your eyes to listen to music, said Jonathan H. Burdette, M.D., senior researcher. Burdette is an associate professor of radiology and a member of the Advanced Neuroscience Imagining Research Laboratory at Wake Forest Baptist.

While lying in an fMRI scanner, the subjects heard two tones that were clearly different (middle A and E on a music scale) but began at almost the same time, only a few thousands of a second between them. The subjects had to report which tone began first. The study was made harder by moving the tones closer together in time. The subjects we
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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