The effects of highly specialized musical training on cross-modal processing

Principal Investigator:
Jonathan H. Burdette, M.D.

Investigators and Personnel:
David Hairston, Ph.D.
Joseph A. Maldjian, M.D.

Collaboration with: Donald Hodges of the Music Research Institute at UNCG

A major component of leading an ensemble is inhibiting non-relevant information while focusing on a complex auditory scene. This series of studies explores how these unique individuals allocate limited mental resources between senses when performing difficult auditory tasks.

The acquisition of musical proficiency involves consistent practice and continued exposure to not only auditory, but visual and tactile information. In this series of studies, we are investigating the effects of this kind of long-term experience on how individuals deal with information between senses. This is an ongoing collaborative project with the Music Research Institute at the University of NC – Greensboro.

Current studies focus on a special case of this training –conductors with extensive (e.g. > 7 years) experience. In addition to musically untrained, demographically matched controls, participants are being evaluated across a range of tasks that evaluate how they innately allocate neural resources when presented with multisensory information. For example, one recent project included an evaluation of spatial localization ability, how this ability is enhanced amongst conductors when dealing with auditory targets, and this implications this has upon multisensory integration. An additional ongoing fMRI study examines how conductors treat non-relevant senses (e.g. vision) when focusing on a difficult auditory task.

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