Musicians' sensory patterns in relation to their primary musical instrument
Hellberg, Elsabie Petronella
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This study examined the relation between 1327 musicians’ sensory patterns and their primary musical instrument. Musicians’ sensory patterns were further compared with reference to different instrument groups, within instrument groups, and gender within these groups. To achieve this, a quantitative criterion group design was implemented using the Adult/Adolescent Sensory History (ASH). This 163-item selfreport questionnaire is principally used in occupational therapy to evaluate individuals’ sensory integration and its influence on their daily functioning. Employing the ASH, musicians’ sensory patterns were examined from three perspectives: sensory modulation and discrimination, functional problems, and motor/social components. It was established that, in comparison to the standard population, musicians demonstrate increased sensitivity for all the components contained in the ASH. Overall, musicians achieved higher auditory modulation, visual modulation, and proprioceptive discrimination scores than the average person. Instead of viewing these as sensory obstacles, they rather point toward musicians’ increased sensitivity/awareness or superior sensory abilities. It was found that in terms of auditory modulation, percussion, trombone, trumpet and tuba players were the only instrumentalists who score within the typical range of the ASH. Of the instruments which were within the mild difficulties range, violin players obtained the highest score. It emerged that the majority of musicians from all 19 instruments’ visual modulation scores were within the ASH’s mild difficulties range, indicating greater sensitivity to visual stimuli than the average person. Similarly, all groups except percussion scored at the low end of mild difficulties range. This is in accordance with previous research which determined that musicians have superior multisensory processing and integration of tactile and visual information which allow them to react significantly more quickly to such stimuli than non-musicians. It was further found that, although within the norm, musicians demonstrate greater discrimination sensitivity, especially in terms of proprioception, than the standard population. As far as functional problems are concerned, musicians’ scores were overall slightly higher than the norm. Sensory over-responsivity, often coinciding with modulation challenges/sensitivity, was established among all musician groups. With the exception of pianists and violinists, all instrument groups were at the low end of the mild difficulties range for the various sensory seeking behaviours. These behaviours are typically associated with higher modulation or discrimination scores – evident from the results of this study. Several gender differences emerged in terms of vestibular, visual and tactile modulation, vestibular discrimination, as well as sensory seeking behaviours. Another noteworthy finding involves musicians’ social/emotional patterns. Similar to previous research, it was established that higher levels of anxiety, depression, impulsivity and introversion exist among musicians. For the first time, as a result of my research, these traits have now been shown to be connected to sensory processing difficulties/sensitivity. By conducting this research, pioneering work was done concerning musicians’ sensory patterns, providing multiple possibilities for further research.
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