CMS 2018

Sixty-first National CMS Conference
11-13 October 2018
Vancouver, British Columbia

The Brain and Musician Wellness Education

Two key points from the presentation and further info about each:

1.  Imitation is key to learning thanks to brain cells called Mirror Neurons.

Under Categories in the right hand column of this page, scroll down to Mirror Neurons.  There are 8 posts concerning mirror neurons and musicians.  You may also be interested in the importance of the visual in performance, and there is more information at Are you listening to the music – or watching the performer?;  Are you listening or watching? part II;  and Now from a jury member.

Svard, L. (2010).  The Musician’s Guide to the Brain:  how to use brain science in the study of music.  MTNA e-journal.   February 2010.   (Discussion of mirror neurons)

Marco Iacoboni. 2008.  Mirroring People:  the science of empathy and how we connect with others.    A fascinating book about one of the great neuroscience discoveries of the past 20 years.  Even though it doesn’t concern music, this book is the most comprehensive discussion of mirror neurons.

2.  Understanding how the brain wires itself as we learn can lead to more secure learning, reduce performance anxiety, and reduce injury.

Under Categories in the right hand column of this page, check Neuroplasticity, Learning and Memory, Memory, Practice, Music Cognition, and Sleep.  


Lois Svard.  College Music Society Webinar.  A Musician’s Guide to the Brain:  what we need to know and why.   Discusses neuroplasticity, how we wire our brains as we learn music, how we also can wire in injuries.


Allen, S. (2012).  Memory Stabilization and Enhancement Following Music PracticePsychology of Music, 41(6), 794-803.

Altenmüller,E., and Jabusch, H-C.  Focal Dystonia in Musicians:  Phenomenology, Pathophysiology, triggering factors, and treatment.  Medical Problems of Performing Artists.  2010(1): 3-9.

Cedernaes J. et. al. (2015). Short Sleep Makes Declarative Memories Vulnerable to Stress in Humans.  Sleep, 38(12), 1861-1868.

van Dongen, E.V., et. al. (2016).  Physical Exercise Performed Four Hours after Learning Improves Memory Retention and Increases Hippocampal Pattern Similarity during Retrieval.  Current Biology, 26(13),1722-1727.


Eckart Altenmüller, Mario Wiesendanger, Jürg Kesselring, Eds.  2006.  Music, Motor Control and The Brain.   Includes chapter on Schumann’s focal dystonia.

Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel.  2014.  Make it Stick:  the science of successful learning.

Roger Chaffin, Gabriela Imreh, and Mary Crawford. 2012.  Practicing Perfection:  Memory and Piano Performance.    Part of a research series intended for both psychologists and musicians, this book details how an experienced pianist organizes practice, identifies stages in learning, characteristics of expert practice, and practice strategies.

Benedict Carey.  2014.  How We Learn:  the surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens.  Neither the Peter Brown nor Benedict Carey books are about music, but musicians can make use of the information.  Both look at recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines to show how much we think we know about learning is wrong.  Both books give techniques for more productive learning and memory.

Daniel J. Levitin, 2006.  This is Your Brain On Music:  The Science of a Human Obsession.  How we experience music and why it is so important in our lives.

Rebecca Shockley.  1997.  Mapping Music: for faster learning and secure memory
Written for piano teachers and students, but the ideas apply to any musician.

Website:     Website developed by Rebecca Shockley and flutist Melissa Colgin about visual mapping for music.