A Review of a Scholarly Article on the Brain of a Professional Musician vs. a Non Professional Musician (Post 4)

I reviewed the article entitled “Brain Structures Differ Between Musicians and Non-musicians” in regards to how valuable it is in understanding how the brain functions and processes learning. This article describes an experiment that was conducted on the existence of grey matter in three different categories of musicians: professional musicians, amateur musicians, and non-musicians, and the findings did indicate that there was more grey matter present in the brains of professional musicians, a lesser amount in amateur musicians and a lesser amount in non-musicians (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003). I was interested in this scholarly article in regards to how life-long learners encode information, and I was wondering if looking at a focal group, like musicians would reveal something about learning by means of encoding information in using the same schemas over and over again. This study reveals one experiment among many that are currently in process. There is still much to be learned on this topic. Yet, all in all, while this source has potential and provides a new perspective in regards to brain functions and processing information on one focused subject continually during a long period of time, it does not reveal any insights as to how learners may use music as a sensory register to associate positive attributions to presented learning material.

As I study how learners encode information – that is how learners take on new information most often “by making new information meaningful and integrating it with known information” (Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler, 2009, p.70), I am struck by how learners organize new information and how learners identify information with schemas that are often already established within their long term memories, like the form and structure of a narrative. It seems to me that professional musicians would continually encode the information of music to the musical schemas they have previously learned over and over, allowing them to attain musical information, process it, and then actively use the information in the form of playing it at an above and beyond efficiency rate (in comparison to non-musicians). I would imagine that professional musicians would also be highly effective in elaboration, “…the process of expanding upon new information by adding to it or linking it to what one knows” (Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler, 2009, p.71). It seems that a professional musician would be able to continue to link patterns of sounds for example to other known patterns at a high efficiency rate in that musicians are exposed to musical patterns often and practice them regularly.

The findings in the article indicated that more grey matter was present in parts of the brain of professional musicians than non-professional musicians that directly correlated to repetitive functions and abilities that professional musicians perform and practice regularly, like for example the “Motor-related regions such as the premotor and cerebellar cortex have been shown to play a critical role in the planning, preparation, execution, and control of bimanual sequential finger movements” (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003, para 9). What this tells me is that the brain has the ability to become more efficient in certain areas when those areas are stimulated and put to use continually (more grey matter is produced in these areas). The brain develops a high efficiency to process information in that way. Therefore, this may explain why the more you do something (anything) the better and better at it you get. Researchers are still investigating the effects of pre-disposition and looking at how predisposition of people’s brains may contribute to why professional musicians seem to have more grey matter in their brains in certain areas than compared with non-musicians. Yet, there does seem to be something to repetitive learning and being a life-long expert within the area of one singular focused subject. This is a valuable article in examining the brain functioning of a singular focal group.

What this study did not tell me was how music could be used as a sensory register to stimulate the learning process of any learner, learning any kind of content. As an instructional designer, I would love to bring music to learning platforms and design and use music as a positive attribution learners may use to associate assigned material with. My instinct tells me to use classical music because there are no song lyrics to compete with the presentation of words on the page. In addition, classical music is often used in movies to evoke emotion, especially in adventure movies. I envision applying something similar to instrumental movie soundtracks to my designs.


Gaser, C., & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and         non-musicians. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23(27), 9240-9245. Retrieved from http://www.jneurosci.org/content/23/27/9240.full

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.


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