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The Brain of a Musical Prodigy

August 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Brain of the Prodigy, music and the brain

Have you ever wondered about the Brain of a musical prodigy?  I know that I have!  Prodigies of all kinds can be born to people who have no apparent similar talent or ability, but usually they recognize that their child can do some amazing things from a very young age.   I was not a prodigy.  I did love music from an early age, and went to the piano by age 3, trying to pick out tunes that I knew.  But now that I’ve read about true musical prodigies, I know that I was a curious, music-loving child, but not a prodigy.

So what exactly happens in the brain of a musical prodigy that makes them able to play instruments really, really well?  According to Psychology Today,

“At age 6, Mozart performed at the court of the Prince-elect Maximilian II of Bavaria. At age 8, Joy Foster represented Jamaica in table tennis at the Caribbean championships in Trinidad. What do the brains of these two child prodigies have in common? Not as much as you might think: a study published this week in the journal Intelligence shows that one size brain does not fit all prodigies—the brains of math prodigies are different than those of art prodigies are different than those of music prodigies. But for every prodigy, there’s a profile: distinct brain abilities help to make astounding performance possible.”

I find this really interesting.  So, different brain configurations produce different kinds of unusual abilities!

Ellen Winner, a psychology professor at Boston College who has studied prodigies, tells NPR’s David Greene.

“People are fascinated by these children because they don’t understand where it came from. You will see parents who say, ‘I wasn’t like this; my husband wasn’t like this.’ It seems to sometimes just come out of the blue,” Winner says.

“But I believe that anything that shows up so early, without training, has got to be either a genetic or some other biological basis,” Winner says. “If a child suddenly at age 3 goes to the piano and picks out a tune and does it beautifully, that has to be because that child has a different brain.”

Children who are extremely gifted tend to be socially different, too, Winner says. “They feel like they can’t find other kids like themselves, so they feel kind of weird, maybe even like a freak, and feel like [they] don’t have anybody to connect with.”

Gifted children are more likely to be introverted, Winner says, and spend more time alone. “On the other hand, they also long to connect with other kids, and they can’t find other kids like themselves.”



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