The system - called neurofeedback - trains
musicians to clear their minds and produce more creative brain waves.
Research, to be published in the journal
Neuroreport, indicates the technique helps musicians to improve by an
average of 17% - the equivalent of one grade or class of honours.
Some improved by as much as 50%.
Students were assessed on two pieces of music
before and after neurofeedback sessions.
Neurofeedback monitors brain activity through
sensors attached to the scalp which filter out the brainwaves.
These filtered brainwaves are then 'fed back' to
the individual in the form of a video game displayed on a screen.
The participant learns to control the game by
altering particular aspects of their brain activity.
This alteration in brain activity can influence
A panel of expert judges found the 97 Royal
College of Music students improved in a number of areas, including
musical understanding, imagination, and communication with the audience.
The technique has already been used to treat
epilepsy, alcoholism, attention deficit and post-traumatic stress
disorders, according to the researchers from Imperial College London and
Charing Cross Hospital who conducted the study.
But Dr Tobias Egner said: "This is the first
time it has been used to improve a complex set of skills such as musical
performance in healthy students."
And Professor John Gruzelier added: "While it
has a role in stress reduction by reducing the level of stage fright,
the magnitude and range of beneficial effects on artistic aspects of
performance have wider implications."