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NYTimes.com Article: Research Suggests Great Conductors Can Tune In

This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by bgehring@fp3d.com.

Thought this might be of enough interest to post.  The question it begs is whether particular exposure or intentional training could improve spatial discrimination in average subjects.  This could be helpful in spatial audio display applications.

Bo Gehring

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Research Suggests Great Conductors Can Tune In

February 1, 2001


LONDON -- For those who have ever wondered how great conductors
manage to control entire orchestras and still identify the source
of a single sound, German scientists think they may have the

New research by Thomas Munte of the University of Magdeburg,
reported in the science journal Nature Wednesday, shows that years
on the podium help conductors to train their brains so that they
can focus on peripheral sounds more closely than other people.

``They are able even at the far ends of the circle of musicians to
identify those that are playing out of tune,'' Munte said in a
telephone interview.

He and his colleagues compared the hearing skills of seven
classical conductors, seven pianists and seven non-musical
volunteers to see if there were differences in their abilities and
brain patterns.

They placed all the participants in front of an array of speakers
in a semi-circle and then played bursts of sounds, while monitoring
the electrical activity in their brains.

The conductors were able to identify unusual sounds from a distance
better than both the musicians and the non-musicians. The activity
in their brains also indicated they could focus better on
peripheral sounds.

``Although conductors probably employ other mechanisms such as
perceptual grouping to identify single musicians, our findings
provide another example of how extensive training can shape
cognitive processes and their neural underpinnings,'' Munte added.



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