Musical genre-dependent behavioural and EEG signatures of action planning. A comparison between classical and jazz pianists

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It is well established that musical training induces sensorimotor plasticity. However, there are remarkable differences in how musicians train for proficient stage performance. The present EEG study outlines for the first time clear-cut neurobiological differences between classical and jazz musicians at high and low levels of action planning, revealing genre-specific cognitive strategies adopted in production. Pianists imitated chord progressions without sound that were manipulated in terms of harmony and context length to assess high-level planning of sequence-structure, and in terms of the manner of playing to assess low-level parameter specification of single acts. Jazz pianists revised incongruent harmonies faster as revealed by an earlier reprogramming negativity and beta power decrease, hence neutralising response costs, albeit at the expense of a higher number of manner errors. Classical pianists in turn experienced more conflict during incongruent harmony, as shown by theta power increase, but were more ready to implement the required manner of playing, as indicated by higher accuracy and beta power decrease. These findings demonstrate that specific demands and action focus of training lead to differential weighting of hierarchical action planning. This suggests different enduring markers impressed in the brain when a musician practices one or the other style.HighlightsReal-time imitation of piano chord sequences with unexpected harmony or manner.Genre-specific strategies at high (harmony) and low (manner) levels of planning.Jazz pianists revised harmony faster (earlier negativity) at the cost of manner.Classical pianists had conflict in harmony (frontal theta) but excelled in manner.Focus of practice may cause enduring brain marks at different action control levels.

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