Applied Neuroscience, the Six-String Method

The New York Times:

At 13, an age when most boys want to learn the guitar, Gary Marcus, decided he wanted to be a scientist. Twenty-five years later he had become one of the country’s best known cognitive psychologists, with major papers and three general-interest books on the workings of the human mind and a position running New York University’s Center for Language and Music.

And he wanted to play the guitar.

For any adult learning an instrument or a new language is terrifying. For a cognitive scientist, it can also be downright depressing. Humans have an early childhood window to acquire such skills easily, according to a long-held tenet in his profession, and it’s a window that closes quickly. Then there is the issue of innate ability. While no single gene can explain Beethoven, Yo-Yo Ma or “Waterloo Sunset,” Dr. Marcus does believe in natural talent, he said, or at least in the certainty he doesn’t have any.

Despite those misgivings he allowed himself one year of dedicated practice, armed with instruction books, a $75 Yamaha acoustic bought on eBay and one thing few adult music students have at their disposal: a year’s sabbatical.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

See Daniel Levitin at the 24th APS Annual Convention

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