Learning: Talent Sometimes is Better Than Practice, Brain Reveals

First Posted: Jul 29, 2015 03:47 PM EDT

Practice doesn't always make perfect. Scientists have found that there's more to it than that, and a new study reveals what parts of the brain account for individual talent and what parts of the brain are activated through training.

In this latest study, the researchers did brain imaging studies of 15 young adults with little or no musical background. These young adults were scanned before and then after they underwent six weeks of musical training.

The participants were required to learn simple piano pieces. The researchers then took a closer look at their brains after learning. While the scientists noted that brain activity in certain areas changed after learning, the activity in a different set of brain structures measured before the training session had started predicted which of the volunteers would learn quickly or slowly.

"Predisposition plays an important role for auditory-motor learning that can be clearly distinguished from training-induced plasticity," said Robert Zatorre, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Our findings pertain to the debate about the relative influence of 'nature or nurture,' but also have potential practical relevance for medicine and education."

The findings reveal a bit more about how some are simply more talented than others in some areas. With that said, the research could help create custom-made interventions for students and for neurological patients based on their predisposition and needs.

The researchers hope to conduct further studies that will explore the extent to which individual differences in predisposition are a result of brain plasticity due to previous experiences and to people's genetics.

The findings are published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

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