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Music & Medicine: Unique Collaboration Combines Performing Arts and Science
Date:7/14/2009

FORT WORTH, Texas, July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When Eri Yoshimura begins to play, beautiful music fills the air. Her eyes close, and her body sways in time to the prelude. Her small hands glide over the keyboard gracefully, fluidly, as if they were tiny ballerinas on a miniature stage.

When she's not performing, though, this University of North Texas (UNT) piano performance doctoral student is part of a collaborative study between the Denton campus and the UNT Health Science Center designed to measure the benefits to a pianist's hands when using a special modified keyboard. This information can then be used to educate musicians who teach musicians and help prevent pianists -- especially those with small hands -- from developing pain caused by playing keyboards.

"We're looking at hand function in piano players," said Rita Patterson, PhD, professor and director of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Physical Medicine Core Research Facility (OHFPMCRF). "We've developed hardware and are collecting data on hand position and function while playing piano."

The study is funded by the Joint Institutional Seed Research Program, an intramural grant designed to foster collaborative, innovative research conducted jointly by UNT and the UNT Health Science Center faculty -- in this case Patterson; Shrawan Kumar, PhD, OHFPMCRF professor; and Kris Chesky, PhD, director of UNT's Texas Center for Music and Medicine.

Yoshimura has studied piano-related pain among pianists in the past. She and Chesky published a paper in September 2006 concluding that 86 percent of college students majoring in piano experienced playing-related pain, with lack of flexibility and small hand span as contributors. This Joint Institutional Seed Research grant will allow PMI researchers to quantitatively measure what happens when a player sits down at a keyboard and begins to play.

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SOURCE University of North Texas Health Science Center
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