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Science Says Piano Players’ Brains Are Very Different From Everybody Else’s

Science Says Piano Players’ Brains Are Very Different From Everybody Else’s

The piano is a beautiful instrument. Its players often come across as mysterious; these people who have spent hundreds of hours practicing scales and repeating phrases over and over again to reach sheer aural perfection. To an audience member it can have a similar effect to watching a magic trick or a ballet: it is so skilled and beautiful it almost seems impossible, a feat of the Gods.

But what is going on underneath all of this hard work and magic? It certainly isn’t luck that such an effect can be made.

The little bolts of electricity running through their neurons as they play are not connected the same way as concert goers’. Piano players brains even work differently than the way musicians’ are wired [1]. And this is all because of the instrument they are playing. The piano makes them and their brains unique.

So, read on, and don’t say I didn’t warn you (especially if you have a big-headed pianist in the family!)…that pianists’ brains are different than everyone else’s. Here’s how:

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    Photo credit: Source

    Piano players are more balanced

    This stands to reason. Pianists are born (like all of us) with one side of the brain being favored more than the other. This is not unusual; everyone has a natural preference for which hand we prefer holding our pen in or eating our cereal with (from a young age). The difference here is that pianists begin practicing using both parts of the brain when mastering the use of each hand whilst playing.

    If one hand were to be weaker than the other, playing the piano would not work. Without skill in both it can end up sounding clunky and unbalanced, at best. This necessity to practice and to master both hands means that the brain effectively evens itself out [2]. With practice, despite each player having a naturally stronger hand when they begin, by the time they have become an expert, the weaker hand is strengthened to the same degree as the stronger one.

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    Piano players are more logical multitaskers

    A piano player also more easily creates a link between their frontal lobes. But what does this mean?

    Basically, this handy part of the brain contains control of emotional responses, social behaviors and even impulses, so it’s handy if you have easier access to it than most.

    This also means that pianists are likely to have stronger problem solving and multi-tasking skills and be able to tap into their creativity with greater ease, too.

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      Piano players are more free to express their authentic selves

      One study by Dr. Ana Pinho[3] found that when playing, the well practiced players would turn off the part of the brain that offers stereotypical brain responses. This allows them to play the true expression of who they are and what they want to ‘say’ with their music, rather than some copycat phrasing. (This could be a very useful skill if transferred to life and everyday situations, where the advice of ‘just be yourself’ might work with these dexterously fingered individuals.)

      Piano players are able to use their brain’s energy more effectively

      Less energy is used in the motor skills section of the brain. It seems once you have mastered your craft, your brain simply needs less blood and oxygen sent to this section, thus freeing up energy for other parts of playing, like phrasing and emotional connection to the song.

      Piano players are well practised at conversing (though not in a language we are used to using everyday)

      In the study by Dr. Charles Limb[4], when pianists improvise, it was found that the parts of the brain containing the language center lit up unexpectedly. Despite being a motor skill, when riffing in a call and response style, players are actually talking to each other!

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      So, that’s it! Basically, pianists are awesome! And I would encourage anyone to try out just five minutes a day of playing if you ever have a piano or keyboard near you. Who knows, you might become the next Rachmaninov, or even Chopin. Or you might simply remember where you put your car keys.

        Photo credit: Source

        Featured photo credit: Focus Features Media, The Pianist via focusfeaturesmedia.com

        Reference

        [1] Science Shows How Piano Players’ Brains Are Actually Different From Everybody Else’s, Mic.com
        [2] What studying musicians tell us about motor control of the hand, Music and Health
        [3] Scientists shed light on creativity by studying pianists’ brain activity, theguardian.com
        [4] Brain On Jazz: Novel Study Puts Pianists In MRI Scanners To Show Link Between Music, Language, huffingtonpost.ca

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        Daniel Owen van Dommelen

        Coder, Director, Writer, Human

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        Last Updated on July 11, 2019

        10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

        10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

        If you have watched movies like Limitless[1] (both the movie and television series) and Lucy,[2] then you have likely come across smart drugs or nootropics. In the movie Limitless, you are introduced to NZT-48 (known as MDT-48 in the book The Dark Fields), which grants heightened intellectual abilities allowing one to pattern-match at lighting speed.

        In the movie Lucy, you are introduced to the drug CPH4, which is actually based on a molecule that a pregnant woman produces after six weeks of pregnancy. The director of Lucy, Luc Besson, remarked,[3]

        “But it’s totally real, and it’s true that the power of this product for a baby is the power of an atomic bomb. It’s real. It’s totally real. So its not a drug in fact, it’s a natural molecule that pregnant women produce.”

        NZT-48 is fictional and CPH4 is a fictional drug based on a real substance. So, are there any real life smart drugs or brain boosters similar to either fictional drug? The answer is no. But powerful cognitive enhancing drugs do exist. And they are Nootropics.

        Nootropics

        Nootropics was coined by Romanian psychologist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972. The etymology of the word is nous or mind and trepein or to bend.[4] According to Smart Drug Smarts, nootropics is an umbrella term for a class of chemicals, some naturally-occurring and some man-made, that give cognitive benefits to the human brain. To be a nootropic, Giurgea found that the substance must meet five specific criteria:[5]

        1. Enhance memory and ability to learn.
        2. Help the brain function under disruptive conditions.
        3. Protect the brain from chemical and physical assaults.
        4. Increase the efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms.
        5. Possess few or no side effects and be virtually non-toxic.

        Let’s now examine the 10 best brain power supplements that will supercharge your mind and 4 bonus tips (in no particular order – meaning #1 is not better than #2 nor #10). Very few of the brain boosters listed can be purchased in a local brick and mortar store.

        For most, you will have to place an order online. However, be extremely cautious and diligently research each prior to ordering.

        For a more detailed breakdown of each brain booster in the form of a wiki, I recommend visiting the website BrainTropic[6]. I will provide a summary for each smart drug below. Summaries will be from BrainTropic unless otherwise stated. In addition, visit my website (you can find the link in my bio) as I regularly write and provide advice on nootropics.

        *Some of the supplements listed require a prescription and could be harmful. Consult with your doctor before consumption.

        1. Qualia Mind

        Qualia Mind is an extremely powerful smart drug created by Neurohacker packed with a variety of nootropics. It is a multi-nootropic leading to potential neurochemical and physiological enhancements.

        Qualia Mind is specifically designed to lift brain fog, amplify willpower, upgrade energy, heighten creativity, and promote mental clarity. No prescription is required.

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        Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

        Summary
        • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Anhydrous Caffeine, Huperzine A, and more)
        • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
        • Typical Dose: 7 capsules per day (maximum of 12)
        • Half-life: 4-6 hours

        You can learn more about Qualia Mind in Neurohacker.

        2. Modafinil

        Modafinil is a stimulant to treat narcolepsy and has been shown to enhance our cognitive functions. Sold under the names Vigil, Nuvigil or Provigil, has became one of the most popular cognitive enhancing drugs on the market.

        Bio-hacker and founder of Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey, is just one of many advocating the drug. Some think Modafinil inspired the movie Limitless. For more on this discussion, read I Spent a Week on Nuvigil, the Drug From ‘Limitless’ and Modafinil: My Experience with the Real Life Limitless Pill by Joen Rude Falsner. Falsner remarked about Modafinil, it’s “Sort of like a real life pop-up blocker…”

        In the US, Modafinil is classified as Schedule IV Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

        Bonus Tip: Top Modafinil researchers have found that Modafinil combined with coffee can create a powerful combination.[7]

        Summary
        • Type: Stimulant
        • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
        • Typical Dose: 50-200mg
        • Half-life: 15 hours

        3. Adrafinil

        Adrafinil is a stimulant that can increase energy and prevent fatigue. It is metabolized and converted into Modafinil. In fact, the effects are similar to Modafinil; however, it is not as strong. No prescription is required for Adrafinil in the US, Canada, or the UK.

        Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

        Summary
        • Type: Stimulant
        • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
        • Typical Dose: 150-600mg
        • Half-life: 1 hour

        4. Noopept

        According to braintropic.com, Noopept is a powerful synthetic nootropic with cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective properties. It was developed in Russia in the mid-1990s and is used as a prescription treatment for cognitive impairments. Researchers found that, in animal studies, Noopept has been shown to stimulate the expression of two chemicals: Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[8]

        Potential side effects: headaches, restlessness, dizziness, and irritability.

        Summary
        • Type: Peptide
        • Good for: Anxiety, Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
        • Typical Dose: 10-20 mg
        • Half-life: 30-60 minutes

        5. Adderall

        Adderall is a stimulant used to treat those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall primarily increases the release to two specific neurotransmitters involved with ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine.

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        For an interesting read on what Adderall does to the brain – to include a good discussion of the benefits and side effects of the drug – read What adderall does to your brain by Daniela Hernandez. Similar to Modafinil, some think the movie Limitless was inspired by Adderall.

        For more on this discussion, read Limitless: The Brain-Doping Movie We All Know Was Inspired by Adderall and The Drug From Limitless Is Available for Purchase on Your College Campus.

        Adderall is considered a Schedule II Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. This means anyone caught in possession of it without a prescription could face criminal charges. Potential side effects: irregular heartbeat, paranoia, headaches, restlessness, dizziness, lack of appetite, high risk of dependency, and irritability.

        Summary[9]
        • Type: Stimulant
        • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
        • Typical Dose: 5-40 mg (Adderall XR is 5-60 mg)
        • Half-life: 4-6 hours (Adderall XR is 6-8 hours)

        6. Oxiracetam

        Oxiracetam was developed in the 1970s and is a synthetic derivative of the original nootropic – Piracetam. However, according to braintropic.com, Oxiracetam is more potent than Piracetam. Oxiracetam has been studied for treatment with those suffering from Alzheimer’s or memory.[10] No prescription is required for Oxiracetam.

        Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

        Summary
        • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
        • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
        • Typical Dose: 400-2400 mg
        • Half-life: 8 hours

        7. Bulletproof Coffee

        Dave Asprey (also an advocate for Modafinil) is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee. Asprey contends that Bulletproof Coffee is clean and tested for toxins.

        However, when you first read about Bulletproof Coffee, you hear about the combination of Butter – Oil – Coffee. That can’t be a good combination, right?

        Wrong. It is.

        Bulletproof Coffee has been found to help with weight loss, boost cognitive functioning, maintain mental clarity, and decrease brain fog. For more on Bulletproof Coffee, read What It’s Like To Drink Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning For Two Weeks by Chris Gayomali. Potential side effects: restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and rapid heart rate.

        Summary[11]
        • Type: Stimulant
        • Good for: Mental Clarity, Decrease Brain Fog, and Weight Loss
        • Typical Dose: Varies by type of coffee (e.g. Coffee Pods or Brew)
        • Half-life: Varies

        8. Cellucor C4 Ultimate

        Cellucor C4 Ultimate is a powerful pre workout supplement. It provides an instant cognitive boost so that you can not only get the most out of your exercise training sessions, but also maximize your ability to learn (even during exercise).

        C4 Ultimate should be consumed 20-30 minutes prior to training. No prescription is required for C4 Ultimate.

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        Potential side effects: insomnia, diarrhea, dehydration, headaches, high blood pressure, and tingly or prickly sensations. To counter these side effects, read Pre-Workout Supplements: 6 Side Effects and How To Avoid Them by Matt Weik.

        Summary[12]
        • Type: Pre Workout (crucial ingredients include: Vitamin C, Vitamins B6 and B12, Niacin, Citrulline Malate, Caffeine Anhydrous, Taurine, Beta-Alanine, Creatine Nitrate, and N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine)
        • Good for: Energy, Pumps, Endurance, and Physical Performance
        • Typical Dose: 1 scoop with water
        • Half-life: Varies

        You can get Cellucor C4 Ultimate at Cellucor.

        9. Piracetam

        Piracetam is the first synthetic smart drug developed and is the compound that inspired the term nootropic. It was invented by the same individual who coined the term nootropic – Dr. Giurgea.

        According to Brain Tropic, Piracetam works by improving blood flow in the brain, boosts the production of crucial brain chemicals, and increases synaptic plasticity.[13] It requires a prescription in the UK and Australia and cannot be legally marketed in the US as a dietary supplement.

        Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

        Summary
        • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
        • Good for: Learning and Memory
        • Typical Dose: 1600-4800 mg
        • Half-life: 4-5 hours

        10. Qualia Focus

        Qualia Focus is another product offered by Neurohacker. It too is a multi-nootropic with powerful cognitive enhancements. While it is not as strong as Qualia Mind, it still upgrades your energy, heightens creativity, and promotes mental clarity at a lower cost than Qualia Mind. No prescription is required.

        Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

        Summary
        • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Coffeeberry Energy, Ginko Biloba Leaf Extract, Huperzine A, and more)
        • Good for: Focus and Concentration, Memory, and Energy
        • Typical Dose: 5 capsules per day (maximum of 9)
        • Half-life: 4-6 hours

        You can learn more about Qualia Focus in Neurohacker.

        While the brain boosters listed above are not the smart drugs in Limitless or Lucy, they still provide you phenomenal results. To find out which of the 10 are the best for you, I suggest you do the following:

        1. Research each one diligently
        2. Test them out for yourself
        3. Try the following Bonus Tips along with your brain booster. In doing so, you will discover a pop-up blocker for your brain!

        Bonus Tips

        1. Take antacids to increase potency

        To increase the potency of a brain booster, ingest alkaline substances like antacids such as Tums or Alka-Seltzer. Read A Brief Guide to Non-medical Psychostimulant Use for more information.

        You should consult with your doctor as there could be serious side effects.

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        2. Take on an empty stomach

        You should take your brain booster on an empty stomach as this will further potentiate both the duration and effect of the drug. The exceptions are Qualia Mind and Focus. I recommend taking both with food as this will cause an upset stomach.

        However, you should consult with your doctor prior to taking any of the brain boosters listed and to identify the proper way to take each.

        3. Adderall alarm clock

        There is an interesting definition in the crowd-sourced online dictionary Urban Dictionary:[14]

        The Adderall Alarm Clock is defined as setting an alarm for an hour before you have to get up; upon waking, roll over and take your prescription stimulant of choice and go back to sleep. In about an hour, you wake up naturally with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

        This actually works. Choose one of your brain boosters and try this out.

        However, you should consult with your doctor prior to attempting this as there could be serious side effects.

        4. Exercise sparks neurogenesis

        Exercise alone will provide similar benefits and could be substituted for any of the brain boosters listed. Exercise plus brain boosters provide even more cognitive enhancing benefits.

        One of the most powerful benefits exercise provides is that it sparks the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which brings about neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain.[15]

        Dr. John Ratey discusses both neurogenesis and BDNF at length in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Ratey dubbed BDNF the master molecule and refers to it as “Miracle-Gro for the brain”. Linda Gabriel writes about BDNF in BDNF – Miracle-Gro for the Brain, “BDNF binds to receptors in the synapses between neurons, increasing voltage (yes your brain is electric!), and improving signal strength.”

        Featured photo credit: Josh Riemer via unsplash.com

        Reference

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