novice - double brain dichotomy for guitarists

Maximilian King maxk at
Fri Feb 3 13:51:38 EST 1995

I am a novice to the neuro-sciences field, but am rapidly gaining interest
in issues concerning the organisation of the brain's cognitive abilities.

I am also a guitarist, and would like to ask an amateur question to the
professional neuroscience community about mental processing of music in
humans and bi-lateral hand co-ordination skills, both of which relate to
playing the guitar.

Is there enough evidence to support a view that one brain hemisphere processes
musical information in one manner whereas the other hemisphere would process
it differently?  This question refers to Roger Sperry's view of the
double-brain, one side specialising in analysis, the other in synthesis.  Can
this be applied to musical information?  Who has researched into this and
do the results validate the above hypothesis?

Eventually I would like to find out if there is an innate preference for
playing guitar in one position, i.e. strumming and picking with one particular
'neurobiologically-specialised' hand and fretting with another specialised
hand (similar applies to entire string instrument family).  Is it premature to
set up hypotheses for such specialisation based on the double-brain dichotomy,
although it has been applied to many aspects of human life by people before,
who like myself are not entirely knowledgeable of the neuroscientific
justification for the double-brain phenomenon?

Concerning the hand specialisation, a right-handed guitarist will use the
right hand for strumming and the left for fretting.  Is the right-hand (and
right side of the body) naturally more rhythmical than the left?  Does the
left-hemisphere specialise in rhythm?  I see that in picking strings,
dexterity is needed which is obviously more pronounced in the preferred hand,
but are there any more brain-to-hand mappings?  The left hand is responsible
for holding down strings along specific points on the fretboard, more than one
in the case of chords.  Could the left hand benefit from an internal visual
representation of the fretboard in the right hemisphere which might help
memorising chord fingerings and positional of scales?  Could this graphical
picture, which would emerge with help from the right hemisphere's superior
visuo-spatial abilities, be qualified to map onto harmonic understanding, also
a feature of the right brain?

I would like to hear a qualified opinion on the above hypotheses.  Please tell
me if I am off track and jumping to conclusions, or if there could possibly be
some evidence supporting this.


maxk at

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