Posts Tagged learning
According to researchers at the University of Montreal, the regions of the brain below the cortex play an important role as we train our bodies’ movements and, critically, they interact more effectively after a night of sleep. While researchers knew that sleep helped us the learn sequences of movements (motor learning), it was not known why.
“The subcortical regions are important in information consolidation, especially information linked to a motor memory trace. When consolidation level is measured after a period of sleep, the brain network of these areas functions with greater synchrony, that is, we observe that communication between the various regions of this network is better optimized. The opposite is true when there has been no period of sleep,” said Karen Debas, neuropsychologist at the University of Montreal and leader author of the study. A network refers to multiple brain areas that are activated simultaneously.
To achieve these results, the researchers, led by Dr. Julien Doyon, Scientific Director of the Functional Neuroimaging Unit of the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal Research Centre, taught a group of subjects a new sequence of piano-type finger movements on a box. The brains of the subjects were observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging during their performance of the task before and after a period of sleep. Meanwhile, the same test was performed by a control group at the beginning and end of the day, without a period of sleep.
The researchers had already shown that the putamen, a central part of the brain, was more active in subjects who had slept. Furthermore, they had observed improved performance of the task after a night of sleep and not the simple passage of daytime. Using a brain connectivity analysis technique, which identifies brain networks and measures their integration levels, they found that one network emerged from the others — the cortico-striatal network — composed of cortical and subcortical areas, including the putaman and associated cortical regions. “After a night of sleep, we found that this network was more integrated than the others, that is, interaction among these regions was greater when consolidation had occurred. A night of sleep seems to provide active protection of this network, which the passage of daytime does not provide. Moreover, only a night of sleep results in better performance of the task,” Debas said.
These results provide insight into the role of sleep in learning motor skills requiring new movement sequences and reveal, for the first time, greater interaction within the cortico-striatal system after a consolidation phase following sleep. “Our findings open the door to other research opportunities, which could lead us to better understand the mechanisms that take place during sleep and ensure better interaction between key regions of the brain. Indeed, several other studies in my laboratory are examining the role of sleep spindles — brief physiological events during non-rapid eye movement sleep — in the process of motor memory trace consolidation,” Doyon said. “Ultimately, we believe that we will better be able to explain and act on memory difficulties presented by certain clinical populations who have sleeping problems and help patients who are relearning motor sequences in rehabilitation centres,” Debas said
Now where is that pillow………….
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The dimensions and layout of your piano room will undoubtedly have an effect on the overall sound. Have you ever listened to a piano that is too powerful for the room it is in?
Not only can it be deafeningly loud but it will often result in a poor quality of sound. As a rule of thumb larger pianos are built for larger rooms, this is because they possess qualities and characteristics that best present themselves in larger spaces. The mighty sound of a double octave run in the lower end of a concert grand would be lost in a typical houseroom as there is insufficient space for the sound to develop and resonate.
Remember large pianos are designed to move large quantities of air & produce comparably large sound waves. To do this they need to be housed in an appropriate sized room.
What Is The Layout Of Your Room?
The height & shape of the ceiling are important factors to consider, depending on the ceiling the sound that resounds round the room can be different. For example consider speaking loudly in a cathedral and then in a flat ceilinged room, the difference is just as immense when considering a piano in relation to its surroundings. Consider the cladding of the walls whether covered in wood, plaster, thick wallpaper or acoustic tiles.
Lots of glass and shutters in a room can produce a hard & indistinct timbre whereas soft furnishings such as wall tapestries or draperies can be used to soften hard sounds.
One of the most neglected aspects of a room’s acoustics in relation to a piano is the floor. Is it bare wood, varnished, laminate or waxed? Maybe it is carpeted, the choice is myriad. With wooden floors the sound that is produced in the home can be very strong and overpowering, almost too harsh to be enjoyed. This can often be combated by placing a large rug under the piano to soften the sound.
These are some of the most basic factors that you should consider when designing the layout of your music room. However, having done all that is required you may still find the sound does not suit the room or the ears of the listener. This can be due to the quality of the hammers in the piano be they hard or soft.
A recent case in point which comes to mind was a medium size piano that was transported to a residential address. The sound that the instrument produced was so colossal & overpowering in the room that a technician had to be called in to ‘soften the blow’ by tuning, regulating & voicing the instrument.
To voice an instrument is a very specialised job and can involve either needling a hammers felts to alter its consistency or in extreme cases by doping or ironing the hammers to compact the felt and harden them, there by producing a brighter sound.
However please note that this process is not as simple as it sounds and if you believe your piano is in need of such attention then contact an experienced piano technician as it is a very delicate job
The list can be endless and very expensive if one becomes carried away with the latest trends of sound control. If you consider the above basic factors you will have a perfectly good music cave to hide out in!
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