Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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How and why musicians are different from nonmusicians: a bibliographic review

William J. Dawson
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 26 Number 2: Page 65 (June 2011)

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Abstract: Musicians differ from nonmusicians in many ways; their many special skills reflect the fact that their brains are built differently and function differently. This review of 172 references from PAMA's bibliographic database reveals that most differences occur in the neurobiological realm, in contrast to those of gross anatomy and physiology. Gross changes occur in both cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres and in both gray and white matter. Neurophysiologic differences, measured by sophisticated imaging and electrophysiological techniques, are revealed in sound processing in general, as well as in multiple parameters of music perception, processing, and performance. Most of the neurological differences, both structural and functional, seem to be related to the early age of onset, intense degree, and prolonged duration of musical training and affect multiple, widespread areas of the brain. Training-related differences extend beyond the musical realm to speech, special senses, and general mental parameters and are seen in both instrumental and vocal musicians. A small percentage of reviewed papers demonstrated no appreciable differences between musicians and nonmusicians in a few parameters.

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