Musicians Have Balanced Brains

From a study by Patston LL, Kirk IJ, Rolfe MH, Corballis MC, and Tippett LJ:

Previous behavioural research has shown that spatial attention is bilaterally represented in musicians, possibly reflecting more equal neural development between the hemispheres. We investigated this theory electrophysiologically with another measure that has shown asymmetry, interhemispheric transfer time (IHTT). Sixteen right-handed musicians and 16 matched non-musicians responded to stimuli presented to the left and right visual fields while 128-channel EEG was recorded. IHTT was calculated by comparing the latencies of occipital N1 components between hemispheres. Non-musicians showed significantly faster IHTT in the right-to-left direction than in the left-to-right direction and a shorter N1 latency in the left than in the right hemisphere. In contrast, the musician group showed no directional difference between hemispheres in IHTT, and no hemispheric difference in latency. These results indicate that musicians have more bilateral neural connectivity than non-musicians [emphasis added], reflected in an unusual lack of asymmetry. It is suggested that plastic developmental changes caused by extended musical training in childhood result in equally efficient connections to both hemispheres.

Today’s study shows increased efficiency in communicating from left to right halves of the brain in musicians vs. nonmusicians. The left hemisphere of the brain is traditionally associated with language and logic, and musicians communicate message from this side of the brain to the other side more efficiently. While we can’t say for sure what good it will do, the mere fact of increased efficiency in communication between the two hemispheres is enough to start neuroscientists and others thinking about possible benefits. The specific processes in the brain are as yet poorly understood, but better and faster communication is almost always a good thing.

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