This article investigated the difference in reaction time between trained musicians and non-musicians in simple one-handed or two-handed motor tasks (Hughes & Franz, 2007). The authors correctly hypothesized that musicians would have a consistently faster reaction time overall due to their training and experience. Results also showed that reaction time increased with the two-handed tasks for musicians and non-musicians due to the increased demands in processing. Finally, the authors found that the musicians that began training at an earlier age demonstrated a longer response time in two-handed tasks because of brain growth and development at certain ages.
This article reinforced the benefits of musical training — long-term improvement in visuospatial, verbal, and mathematical performance — in addition to decreased reaction time in simple motor tasks. Reaction time is a very important skill in tennis, especially at an elite level. The ball flies off an opponent’s racket at incredibly rapid speeds; tennis players have to judge and react in a matter of seconds. Tennis players could benefit from cross-training in music to facilitate their reaction time development without increasing the number of hours on the court.
The references that authors made about myelination and brain plasticity reminded me of “The Talent Code” by Dan Coyle. To summarize very roughly, Coyle states that elite performers experience increased myelination as a result of hours of deliberate practice in a performance domain. What I do not understand from the article is why the earlier start for some musicians leads to a larger bimanual cost. Is that just a side-effect of increased myelin? Or am I just misunderstanding (or reading too much into) the statement?