Researchers in London have developed a computerised technique to help musicians improve their musical performances.
The system, called 'neurofeedback', trains musicians to clear their mind in a way that increases levels of certain brain waves. Those that mastered the technique were found in research published in the Journal Neuroreport, to have dramatically improved their playing ability.
The scope of Ludwig Van Beethoven music marks him out as one of the most gifted composers' of our time. But does a great musician have a certain kind of mind that enables them to tap effortlessly into the soul and express their feelings so eloquently?
Researchers at Imperial College are analysing one aspect of creativity - and believe they've found a way of boosting it. Cassie Yuwaka is one of the country's leading pianists who has tried out the technique. The procedure involves her trying to empty her mind - and increase levels of a type of brainwave called theta waves. These are thought to be associated with creativity. She's connected to a computer which monitors her theta wave activity. Every time her theta waves increase she's rewarded with the sound of waves and gentle gongs, so the system effectively guides her into a state of theta wave bliss.
The idea is to train her to achieve this state whilst performing. And Cassie says it’s a real help. She says it's made her more expressive and she finds it easier to interpret music. And it’s had the same impact on many other student musicians at the Royal College of Music who've tried this technique. On average their musical playing test scores increased by 17 % and some improved by as much as 50 %. The Royal College is so impressed by the results, it's now offering the technique as part of the curriculum. And its not just musicians who could benefit. Ballet dancers are the next group of artists that'll try out the technique.
But does Professor Gruzellier of Imperial College, who developed the application of this technique, have any concerns about 'reprogramming' the brain? Could it be misused like the tranquilizing drug, Soma that Aldous Huxley predicted in the novel 'Brave New World'? He says not. He claims it trains people to be calm. And after hearing the results of his guinea-pigs, he even tried the technique himself - and said afterwards he "felt like a million dollars". He even thinks it's improved his lecturing skills. It's too soon to tell whether the researchers have found a way of opening the door to creativity. But if they have, many more of us could benefit.
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