This is Jennifer Koh’s Brain on Music

Between a 2014 CMF cancellation and a scheduled 2016 performance, an fMRI

By Peter Alexander

“The musician’s brain is exquisitely sensitive to all aspects of music, be it listening, reading or imagining playing music”—Tobias Overath,
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences


Jennifer Koh. Photo by Duke University

Jennifer Koh, who will be the soloist for the opening concert of the 2016 Colorado Music Festival, developed an interest in brain science after suffering a concussion in 2014.

The concussion forced Koh to cancel a scheduled appearance at CMF in August of 2014. It affected her speech and memory and temporarily made it impossible for her to practice. Fortunately, she recovered and is back on the performance circuit, but her curiosity about the brain and how it works was stimulated by the experience.

When Koh performed recently at Duke University, Tobias Overath of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences arranged for her to to have a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan—known as an functional MRI, or fMRI—during which she listened to music, read a score of music, and imagined playing music. The results offer insight into how musicians’ brains work, and also play into a Duke course on “Music and the Brain.”

You can read the full story and see a brief video about the experience at Duke Today.


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