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Hum Mov Sci. 2012 Jun;31(3):567-77. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2011.07.001. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Differences in cortical activity related to motor planning between experienced guitarists and non-musicians during guitar playing.

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Institute for Performance Research, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.


The influence of motor skill learning on movement-related brain activity was investigated using electroencephalography. Previous research has indicated that experienced performers display movement-related cortical potentials (MRCPs) of smaller amplitude and later onset compared to novices. Unfortunately, previous studies have lacked ecological validity with experimenters recording the MRCP prior to simple motor tasks and applying the results to more complex motor skills. This study replicated previous research using an ecologically valid motor skill; recording the MRCP from a group of experienced guitarists and a control group of non-musicians while they played a simple scale on the guitar. Results indicated no difference between groups in early motor planning. In contrast, the later, negative slope and motor potential components were of smaller amplitude and the negative slope began later in the experienced guitarists. The data may indicate that, for experienced guitarists, a reduced level of effort is required during the motor preparation phase of the task. These findings have implications for musical instrument learning as well as motor skill acquisition in general.

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