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THE BRAINS OF JAZZ AND CLASSICAL MUSICIANS RESPOND DIFFERENTLY TO SURPRISING SOUNDS

Dec 12, 2017

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Can creativity be taught? Not directly, perhaps. But if such a curriculum exists, it would train one's brain to regard unforeseen occurrences as potential springboards, rather than disturbing anomalies.

Fortunately, there is at least one type of specialized training that shapes neural activity in precisely that way. Its students aspire to be the next Miles, Mingus, or Monk.

In a new, small-scale study, a Wesleyan University research team led by Psyche Louiand Emily Przysinda report the brains of jazz musicians are uniquely attuned to surprising sounds. Electronic monitoring revealed these players have "markedly different neural sensitivity to unexpected musical stimuli," the researchers write.

These musicians are trained not only to anticipate unpredictable turns, but also to engage with them in a positive, creative way. That dynamic reflex stimulates creative thinking.

The study, in the journal Brain and Cognition, featured 36 students from Wesleyan University and the Hartt School of Music. Twelve were studying jazz (including improvisation), 12 classical music, and the final 12 were non-musicians. The classical and jazz students all had at least five years of musical training.

Read More: https://psmag.com/news/there-are-no-wrong-notes