Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762
Researchers at Heidelberg University have claimed that musicians possess
bigger brains than the rest of us. Their report, published in Nature
Neuroscience-- according to the British news source, The Independent--
revealed that professional musicians "showed 102 per cent more activity in
their auditory cortex than non-musicians." And it was 37 per cent higher in
I've been known to strum a guitar from time to time, warbling either Beatles
tunes or Merle Haggard, depending on my mood, and the tolerance level of
those around me, so I read of this with keen interest. Hey, maybe I'm
smarter than I thought I was.
Well maybe not. I had no idea what an auditory cortex was, for instance.
Not to worry. The Independent had that covered; I read "The auditory cortex
consists mainly of 'grey matter' or... neurons, which are interconnected by
long filament-like axons, or 'white matter.'"
Just as I was nodding off over this description, I was told that musicians
had "larger amounts of grey matter in the region called the Heschl's
gyrus." I seemed to remember Heschl's Gyrus. It was one of those big
pompous arena-rock bands, similar to Genesis, or Yes. I think I still had
their second album somewhere, "White Matter," I think it was called.
But are pompous rock musicians what this study was talking about? I
remember the haircut of the lead singer from Flock of Seagulls, for
instance. Could that have been, in fact, not hair, but an excess of grey
matter, bleached to blonde perfection by stadium lighting? Somehow I doubt
As a matter of personal opinion, my anecdotal evidence indicates that rock
musicians are not the pointiest awl in the workshed. I mean, how much gray
matter does it take to shout, "Hello Cleveland, are you ready to rock and
I have a hunch that by "musician" the researchers are talking about a
cellist, a player of a double reed instrument, someone (in short) who can
tell the difference between a diminished ninth and diminished capacity. I
suspect that a Mick Jagger, though nobody's fool, probably does not have the
abnormally large Heschl's gyrus as a Yo Yo Ma. But on the hand, who has the
knighthood and the mansion?
Oh well. As long as they're off the street, and avoiding show tunes or
extended jams on "Someone to Watch Over Me," how smart do they need to be?
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
07/01/02: Where's my cow?
06/24/02: Modern record stores can be a scary proposition
06/21/02: Life IS a movie?
06/19/02: Spreading fertilizer on a dictionary to try to raise a novel
06/17/02: Happy cows are really miserable?
06/12/02: Very similar to a rock
06/05/02: Of Humice and Men
05/30/02: Pooches in sharkskin suits and the end of dog tags
05/22/02: We baby boomers used to rule the roost
05/20/02: The Files now Ex
05/14/02: Entangled in Spider-Man's web!?
05/02/02: April Showers May Come Our Yadda Yadda
04/24/02: From child murderer to milk hawker
04/10/02: New realities
03/21/02: You did it your way? I have to kill you now!
03/14/02: IN THIS CORNER … SUSAN LUCCI AND STEPHANIE ZYMALIST!
03/12/02: Life in the warehouse
01/28/02: Shoes and food
01/24/02: Suspension of disbelief has nothing to do with whether we accept something as real or not
01/22/02: Save the Grand Ole Opry?
12/15/01: If you truly want to appeal to the lowest common denominator …
12/07/01: Conspiracy by the 'fat suit' lobby?
12/04/01: The future of comic books
11/15/01: Literary tips in a jar
11/12/01: The ectoplasm of a ghost economy
11/05/01: Sumner Redstone's passions
10/31/01: My irony
10/29/01: Even in wartime, America can still bring it home
10/25/01: Ad memories
10/17/01: Pathetic me
10/08/01: War time lite
10/01/01: Confessions of a sarcastic scribe
09/11/01: The end of Mom
09/07/01: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Bites Girl, Boy Gets Girl
09/05/01: Virtual elegance?
08/31/01: I COPY, THEREFORE I AM
08/23/01: Radio workout
08/20/01: I robot, you Jane
08/15/01: A wild and crazy world!
08/10/01: When the future was "as real as a dime"
08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
08/02/01: Stop the pop!
07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
07/23/01: That java jive
07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead
© 2001, Ian Shoales