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Scientists work to discover how music training affects the brain

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research shows that the special training of music conductors seems to enhance the way their senses work together enabling them to quickly tell who played a wrong note, for example. Scientists hope the research will lead to new discoveries about how music training may change the brain.

"Studies have shown that while students who get music training may sometimes do better academically, no research has explored whether this training actually causes changes in the brain," said Jonathan Burdette, M.D., associate professor of radiology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

The research, conducted by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G) Music Research Institute, was presented today at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C. The study focused on multisensory processing, which is the brain's ability to combine information from several senses, such as seeing an ambulance and hearing its siren.

"Multisensory processing has been shown to speed our reactions, help us identify objects and heighten our awareness," said Burdette. "We hope to learn which brain areas are involved in this ability and how they can be enhanced by training."

The researchers' goal was to scientifically examine whether music conductors' intensive training gives them special skills at locating sounds. For example, conductors must be very adept at not only identifying errors, but also in precisely identifying the errant sound both in time and space. This was one of the first studies to examine multisensory processing in this unique population.

"Our research suggests that conductors are better able to combine and use auditory and visual cues than the musically untrained," said Donald A. Hodges, Ph.D, Covington Distinguished Professor of Music Education at UNC-G. "The conductors were also significantly better at locating sounds
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
15-Nov-2005


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