One of the perks of being drawn to music is having a feeling of purpose, of having your career picked out for you, unlike those of us who are not artistically inclined.
While one’s future as a musician may be a given, many of us overlook the quest of how and why one picks a genre or style. How does an artist pick rap versus rock? Beatboxer versus guitarist? Apparently, the answer as to how musicians choose their genre could be neuroscience. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering how much neuroscience has already revealed about the brain and music.
According to a recent study done by University College London published in Cerebral Cortex, “brains of professional beatboxers and guitarists respond to music differently when compared to each other and non-musicians.”
While most neurological studies of the past have focused on classical musicians, this new study equally split professional beatboxers, professional guitarists, and average non-musicians. The study involved an MRI scan while participants listened to beatbox- and guitar-laden tracks specifically prepared for the study.
Guitarists and beatboxers both saw activity in the sensorimotor brain areas, which control movement, when the tracks played. These areas were not activated when non-musicians heard the tracks. This means that the MRI located brain areas that could be connecting the movements associated with making music.
Guitarists had an area of their brain activate that controls their “hand area” whereas beatboxers brains lit up where their mouth controls are located.
What does this mean? For the study’s scientists, it lends itself to proving that studying a specific area of music alters the way brains understand and processes music, as well as how the mind links to the physicality of playing instruments. It may not directly indicate why musicians choose their genre, but simply that the mind has an affinity for the genre they study.
How much these links and brain patterns are present before and after a rigorous academic and professional training, however, is up for debate. Maybe artists aren’t destined to be guitarists at birth after all. For that, we’ll need further studies.