02. February 2010 · Comments Off on But …? · Categories: Links, News

For the improvisation study, researchers Aaron Berkowitz and Daniel Ansari studied the brains of 28 people as they improvised five-note melodies on a tiny keyboard. Thirteen were classically trained undergraduate pianists from the Dartmouth College music department. The other 15 were nonmusicians (though some had played instruments for up to three years in the past).

“The two groups showed significant differences in functional brain activity during improvisation,” the researchers report. “Specifically, musicians deactivated the right temporoparietal junction during melodic improvisation, while nonmusicians showed no change in activity in this region.”

This suggests trained musicians “are entering a different state of attentional focus than nonmusicians as soon as they engage in even the simple act of playing, and that this effect is particularly heightened during melodic improvisation,” Berkowitz and Ansari write.

In other words, they effectively blocked out mental distractions, “allowing for a more goal-directed performance state that aids in creative thought.”

Okay. So there’s that. But what I would really like to see is this same thing going on, having a group of classically trained musicians in one group and jazz musicians in the other. Many classically trained musicians aren’t into the improv thing. I wonder how our brains would look compared to the jazz musician, who is (usually, anyway) more comfortable with doing the improv thing.


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