Get Inspired! Episode 4: Watch and Learn?

With the release of Episode 4 nothing could have been timed more appropriately than Tim Topham’s blog about how the brain reacts to watching others perform. Click here for the full blog…

Here’s the gist…

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“There is no doubt that we feel something when we see things happening to other people. It’s why we get emotional in movies, it’s why we wince when someone else hurts themselves and it’s why we can get angry when we see injustice towards others.

It’s also why you can learn from watching other people performing. Your brain has a hard time realizing the difference between watching something happening and doing it yourself. Watching makes your brain thinks it’s actually doing.

Studies show that when we see someone else in pain, etc, it activates, in our own brains, certain parts of the neural network that is normally active when we are actually experiencing pain ourselves. A gradual discovery of the existence of mirror neurons opened new avenues to study what many neuroscientists now refer to as our “shared neural networks”. Because mirror neurons are activated both when we make a certain movement ourselves and when we see someone else make it, researchers came to regard them as “channels” for this sharing process.

So, if you are studying an instrument and you watch a skilled performer performing at a high level, the mere act of watching can fire neurons in your brain that would fire as if you, yourself were performing. Of course, you are not going to learn to play the piano just by watching someone else – there’s no side-stepping good, comprehensive, deliberate practice . However, if you are learning an instrument and trying to improve your performance skills, somewhere deep in your brain the right neurons are firing when you watch others playing.

Scientifically speaking: “when neurons fire together, they wire together.”

Articles for further reference: Music Leaves its Mark on the Brain and Do Musicians Have Better Brains?

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What does this mean for the “Get Inspired!” series? I believe this means these episodes are not mere “entertainment” for your budding musicians, it’s also educating them, inspiring them, even “improving” or at least encouraging musicianship and artistic playing  just from watching these fine artists. 

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

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