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New Delhi: People without any musical training might have a sense of rhythm comparable to that of professional musicians, largely due to “dense neural connections in specific regions of the brain”, according to a new study. The Hindu.

With the study, conducted by scientists from the National Brain Research Center (NBRC) in Manesar and Symbiosis International in Pune, the scientists wanted to test whether connectivity in the brain and certain brain structures is “minimal or absent” in non- musicians and whether progressively higher musical training influenced the “density or degree of connectivity” between certain brain regions.

Scientists have been curious whether musical ability is inherent and, if so, to what extent. According to The Hinduit is interesting to study whether musical ability is influenced by training and which regions of the brain are most activated when perceiving musical elements such as rhythm and pitch.

The report states that previous studies have shown that 15 months of musical training in early childhood leads to “long-term changes in brain structure” and that this differs from typical brain development. Other studies have shown that musical ability is also influenced by brain neuroanatomy and even certain genes.

To test connectivity in the brain and certain brain structures, Nandini Chatterjee Singh, the neuroscientist who heads the Language Literacy and Music Laboratory at NBRC, recruited 27 college graduates with varying degrees of musical training. They ranged from non-musicians to professionals.

They passed the “Profile of Music Perception” skills test, a standardized computer test that has been used in research to test listeners’ abilities to discern changes in rhythm, pitch, accent and melody. The Hindu said participants’ scores were assessed and brain imaging data was collected.

“What we found was that non-musicians performed as well as trained musicians on rhythm processing tasks because of how the brain is wired,” Singh said. The Hindu. “So there are hidden – or sleeping – musicians among us.” However, these findings were specific to rhythm. The researchers did not find strong patterns in the perception of groundon the other hand.

According to Singh, rhythmic processing abilities were significantly influenced not by connections in the right and left hemispheres of the brain, but rather by “the strength of the connections between the two hemispheres.”

“Connection density in the right posterior cingulate cortex, a region that served as the hub of connectivity between the two halves of the brain, was strongly related to participants’ overall scores,” The Hindu reported.

The study has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal European Journal of Neuroscience. Besides Singh, Archith Rajan, Apurva Shah and Madhura Ingalhalikar also participated in the study.

singh said The Hindu that their discovery – that the perception of rhythm is etched in the brain – underscored its importance for “language processing”, and that it opens new avenues of research on autism, musical aptitude and the use possible use of music therapy for physiological care and rehabilitation.

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