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Chen Chen Gong has been a research associate in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, MIT, since 2005. She is a Visiting Professor at Beijing Normal University and an honorary Associate Professor at Hong Kong University.
Chen Chen Gong is a classically trained pianist. She is interested in the effects of early piano learning on the development of the brain and cognitive abilities in children. She developed a method for teaching young children piano and has authored a series of 40 books for piano education. Her method and books are being used for piano instruction in the US and China, and they are also the basis for an international collaborative research project on the effects of early piano education on cognitive and neural development of kindergarten children, carried out in Beijing.
A View of Brain and Cognitive Research in Piano
Music production, like language production, is unique to humans and requires lengthy experience or training to become proficient. Music and language understanding also appear to depend on some shared neural systems, although there does not appear to be complete overlap. Numerous studies have shown structural and functional differences in the brains of musicians versus non-musicians, and piano training in adults causes a regular sequence of functional neural changes that can be tracked with stimulation and imaging methods. In children, early music training leads to general improvements in cognitive abilities. Although the neural bases for these improved cognitive abilities have not yet been identified, it clear that music training has measurable effects on brain development. Training is essential for music production, but inborn abilities may also play a role. Perfect pitch, for example, is more common in individuals with early music training and who have a relative with perfect pitch, suggesting an interaction between genes and training effects. In spite of the known benefits of music training on cognitive and brain development, the necessity for lengthy training in music production for successful music composition and performance in the future is now called into question by new developments in software-aided music composition and performance. Future software may replace the need for training or, more likely, will simply alter the content of the training, much the way that students are now trained to write differently as keyboards and software have largely replaced pens and quills in recent years.