Piano Skills and the Brain.


Piano Skills and the Brain.

The production of various sensory-motor repertoires in human behaviour can aid in the acquisition of a diverse skills range. The ability to play the piano, guitar and violin are among the many skills that can be gained after these sensory-motor repertoires are developed. However, rather suprisingly some skills can be acquired without the need to practice every possible movement (e.g., finger movements on a piano or bow movement on a violin). A particular neural mechanism that facilitates untrained skills through practicing, the so called “transfer of learning” can enable the mastery of a variety of sensory-motor skills.

Additionally, whilst training to learn a new musical or sports skill people often repeatedly practice the required movements slowly to begin with, building up speed overtime. Previous studies have found that the slow practice of finger movements on a piano keyboard can induce neuroplastic structural and functional changes in the cortical and subcortical regions that are responsible for fast and accurate movement.

One study that has investigated the so called “transfer of learning” mechanism and the gradual increase in speed whilst practicing accurate movements has found that in novice, non-experts after practicing piano playing for a few hours these skills can be maintained for up to two month without further practice. Furthermore, the learning transfer of finger movements also persists, indicating that there is an intra-manual effect in piano practice.


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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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