Genetics Impacts the Effects of Practice

Apparently there is more to becoming an accomplished musician than lots of practice, according to a new study.

The music-training research by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, the Neuro, and colleagues in Germany, allowed investigators to determine which parts of the brain are activated through training or practice.

The investigation allowed researchers to distinguish the parts of the brain that account for individual talent from the brain regions that are activated through training.

For the study, investigators performed brain imaging evaluations of 15 young adults with little or no musical background who were scanned before and after they underwent six weeks of musical training. Participants were required to learn simple piano pieces.

Brain activity in certain areas changed after learning, indicating the effect of training. But the activity in a different set of brain structures, measured before the training session had started, predicted which test subjects would learn quickly or slowly.

“Predisposition plays an important role for auditory-motor learning that can be clearly distinguished from training-induced plasticity,” said Dr. Robert Zatorre, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Neuro, and lead author of the study in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

“Our findings pertain to the debate about the relative influence of ‘nature or nurture,’ but also have potential practical relevance for medicine and education.”

Researchers say that future cognitive neuroscience studies will explore the extent to which individual differences in predisposition are a result of brain plasticity due to previous experiences and to people’s genetics.

The findings suggest that custom-made interventions could be created for students and for neurological patients based on their predisposition and needs.

Source: McGill University/EurekAlert

Music and the mind photo by shutterstock.