[AI] Musical talent-visual impairment link

Lissy Verghese lissyverghese at gmail.com
Wed May 19 23:19:31 EDT 2010

Interesting information!
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From: "Renuka Warrier" <erenuka at gmail.com>
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Subject: [AI] Musical talent-visual impairment link

The Hindu : Sci-Tech / Science : Musical talent-visual impairment link
Link: Technology

May 20, 2010

Lucy Tobin
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AP Blind but brilliant: High-profile and brilliant blind musicians such as 
Stevie Wonder have long caused people to wonder if there is a link between 
music and blindness.
New research suggests musical talent and vision impairment are closely 
linked. High-profile and brilliant blind musicians such as Ray Charles, 
Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli have long caused people to wonder if there 
is a link between music and blindness.

Now Professor Adam Ockelford, a musician and visiting research fellow at the 
Institute of Education, London, has some solid evidence.

He and his research team surveyed and visited visually impaired children who 
had been premature babies, at home and at school.

Working with around 40 blind children, as well as surveying parents, 
teachers and music therapists, the study showed that blind children are 
4,000 times more likely to have perfect pitch - a traditional marker of 
exceptional musical ability - than their fully sighted peers.

The research, which also quizzed parents whose children were fully sighted, 
found that 48 per cent of blind children demonstrate significant interest in 
everyday sounds compared to 13 per cent of those with full sight. More than 
two-thirds of the blind and partially sighted children played at least one 
instrument, compared with 41 per cent of the sighted group.

Parents of the blind children reported that music was particularly important 
as a source of comfort, helping them to relax and express their emotions.

According to Ockelford, the reason is "the obvious one". He explains: "In 
young babies, the brain is very mouldable, synapses grow and connections are 
made all the time.

In blind children, the areas of the brain involved in sight are not being 
used, but others, including those used for hearing, become much more 
important. The greater focus on auditory input makes the brain develop in a 
different way."

Ockelford says he repeatedly found himself "astonished" by young children 
singing in perfect pitch during his research. "About 20 per cent of 
musicians have perfect pitch, and in the wider population it's about one in 
10,000, but I was discovering these children singing beautifully in tune, 
time and time again," he says.

"Perfect pitch isn't a condition for great musicianship, but it is necessary 
in the development of exceptional musicality among people with learning 
difficulties." Ockelford says many blind people already use their awareness 
of pitch to help them overcome daily obstacles. " Joshua Black, who was born 
prematurely at 32 weeks, is registered blind, with no sight in his right eye 
and only small amount of peripheral vision in his left eye. He plays the 
violin, trumpet and African drums as well as singing; he is academic, but 
music is his passion. "It helps me overcome everyday stress; when I'm upset 
I go to music," Joshua says.

Joshua uses his perfect pitch to convert sounds into colours in his head. 
"If I hear an A note, in my head that's blue," he says.

Ockelford says his research shows that music teachers should be more willing 
to make an effort with these children, especially as they are more likely to 
be talented. "There are still a lot of stereotypes around about children 
with disabilities being harder for music teachers to teach," he says. 
Joshua's mother Clare Black agrees.

She found it "hugely difficult" to find a teacher for Joshua. "Joshua learns 
in a different way, mainly by ear - the Suzuki learning method has been the 
perfect way for him to learn the violin, for example."

Ockelford says: "Although sheet music is available for blind children in 
braille, it's only useful for those who are very academically able.

"For those who have learning difficulties, learning music aurally can be a 
huge confidence boost." - © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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