Musicians’ Brains Are Different

July 3rd, 2017 by TLOC Team

Katherine Butler was honoured to speak at Oxford May Music Festival on ‘Musicians’ brains are different’. This festival presents scientific lectures and musical concerts side by side and allows exploration of the intertwined relationship of these two worlds. For many years, Katherine has been passionate about combining her two loves: music and medicine. She believes that the interactions of art and science are what makes us human and that crossing and integration of the two disciplines is essential.

Through years of practicing highly skilled movements, often from a young age, the area in the musicians’ brain that controls hand movement becomes more defined than that of a non-musician. However, in some musicians this initial benefit can become dysfunctional resulting in painless involuntary movements. Though uncommon, task specific dystonia (TSD) can be very disabling, especially for professional musicians. Whilst the condition is still poorly understood, there is growing evidence to show that the brain gives and receives information in an altered way, due to repetitive practice of the highly skilled movements that musicians use when playing their instruments. There is evidence of dysfunction in the relationship between touch and the way movements are executed, and traits of anxiety and perfectionism in musicians’ who are affected by this.

Katherine’s lecture looked at why and how people develop this condition and therapeutic retraining techniques that aim at reshaping the area of the brain that controls hand movements and assists in regaining control of affected movements to enable musicians to get back to playing. 

Visit Katherine Butler’s personal site.