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Practice 69

inhalation and expiration pressures in trumpet players were found only after
several long notes had been played (Fiz et al., 1993). From research on runners,
we know that metabolic processes in athletes reach their optimal levels while
the athletes are performing their sports. Many physiological adaptations are
helpful for the expert performer.
Although additional results could be reported, it would be even more interesting to know whether those changes coincide with amount and intensity of training. In fact, they do, and we focus now on those concerning the cortex, the characteristically wrinkled surface of the brain (see Mnte, Altenmller & Jncke,
2002; and Pantev, Engelien, Candia, & Elbert, 2003, for reviews). For a long time
scientists believed that the brain remained anatomically unchanged except for
pathological or aging symptoms. The subtle adaptations in our brains have recently been uncovered by neurophysiologists using sophisticated imaging techniques (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI). This technique allows researchers a noninvasive look into a persons brain while the person is
doing something. One of the first studies that received widespread attention was
one that looked at the position and size of the areas in the brain, that is, the cortical representation, in which localized increases in neural activity can be seen in
response to the movement of certain fingers. Researchers found that the area
representing the left hand in string players was enlarged compared to the right
(Elbert et al., 1995). Also, the cortical representation on the surface of the cortex
that is responsible for processing the information from individual digits of the
left hand (the playing hand) was enlarged compared with the area representing
the thumb. Most important, this cortical reorganization was more pronounced
for persons who had started musical training at an earlier age. Other studies have
since shown that this reorganizing effect is not restricted to playing but also appears when listening to music: Larger areas of the cortex are activated when musicians listen to tones of their own instruments as compared with instruments
they do not play. Much research has been done comparing musicians with nonmusicians. Among other things, we find differences in the volume of gray matter
in the motor, as well as the auditory and visuospatial, brain regions of professional musicians (keyboard players) compared with amateur musicians and nonmusicians. It is therefore reasonable to assume that training and practice induce
far-reaching changes in our brains. But musicians are not unique; similar
learning-induced changes, also called neuroplasticity, can be found in many
other populations (e.g., in athletes and the blind).

Some Physiological Adaptations That


Are Counterproductive
Although some degree of physiological adaptation is presumably necessary for
musicians to perform at the highest levels, these benign outward changes might
also turn malign, as they can result in musculoskeletal problems, skin conditions,