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Music & Touch

December 30, 2013

Trained musicians are better at distinguishing between their senses than the average person.



Music and touch. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Simon Landry Julie Roy Susanne Bard

Simon Landry and Julie Roy discuss their research at the 2013 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. (Credit: Susanne Bard)

Playing music requires people to integrate many of their senses at one time. Now, scientists have discovered that years of training helps musicians distinguish between different senses better than the average person. University of Montreal neuroscientists Julie Roy and Simon Landry say most people have a hard time separating hearing from the sense of touch, so even if they hear two sounds and receive one tap, they often think they felt two taps.


Our brain without us even knowing associates those two things and it says, well, I know I heard two, and I’m pretty sure I felt one, but usually those two things are linked, so I probably felt two, I guess.


But they found that people with many years of musical training didn’t fall for the illusion and reported only feeling one tap. The researchers think music therapy could help people with strokes or dementia reintegrate their senses. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.