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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: chopin_r_us] #2311967
08/06/14 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us

but not motor function as far as I'm aware.

That right there is the problem. Again, motor function is a property of the CNS which is bounded by genes.

Go do your homework.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: pianoloverus] #2311969
08/06/14 01:57 PM
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Motor function is about signals sent down nerves - there are physical laws dictating that which genes have no control over. There is myelination. That's about it. Enough of the rudeness please.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: chopin_r_us] #2312006
08/06/14 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us

Motor function is about signals sent down nerves - there are physical laws dictating that which genes have no control over.

No, motor function is a function of the CNS which at the lowest level is a function of physical laws. If you sum physical laws from the lowest level upward, you will end up with motor function. Although these physical laws are identical for each of us, the genes that determine the emergent properties are unique to the individual.

We are bounded in every way by our genes.

You're grossly misunderstanding this material.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: pianoloverus] #2312016
08/06/14 03:54 PM
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Buddy, you can measure how long it takes for a message to travel down your arm. For all intents and purposes it's constant.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: chopin_r_us] #2312018
08/06/14 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Buddy, you can measure how long it takes for a message to travel down your arm. For all intents and purposes it's constant.

Of course! That has absolutely nothing to do with anything at all.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: pianoloverus] #2312020
08/06/14 04:02 PM
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Quite right, it's motor function.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: chopin_r_us] #2312024
08/06/14 04:18 PM
08/06/14 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Quite right, it's motor function.

No, it's not. It's the transmission of motor function, which is still subject to genes.

You really never did your homework in high school.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: pianoloverus] #2312039
08/06/14 04:45 PM
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We can all insult. So long buddy.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: Atrys] #2312042
08/06/14 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys

We are bounded in every way by our genes.

You're grossly misunderstanding this material.


Not necessarily the case. A lovely example, published in 2002 in Nature by Shin, T. et al showed a cat, CC (apparently short for Copy Cat!), that was cloned (from Rainbow) where the colour of the CC's coat was not a copy of its genome donor's. They are quite different in appearance.

Quote
[...] this is because the pattern of pigmentation in multicoloured animals is the result not only of genetic factors but also of developmental factors that are not controlled by genotype.


This does not actually go contrary to the original paper the news article was reporting. Having seen examples of shoddy reporting in the past, I went right to the original paper by Hambrick, D. et al in the Psychon. Bull. Rev.. An interesting read, certainly more informative than the news article.

To quote from their abstract:

Quote
[We] found evidence for gene-environment interaction, such that genetic effects on music accomplishment were most pronounced among those engaging in music practice, suggesting that genetic potentials for skilled performance are most fully expressed and fostered by practice. [emphasis added]


This to me suggests that other factors, such as practice also come into play. One my be genetically predisposed to be a good musician, but you must be properly nurtured to fully exploit that predisposition. But then humans are quite good at overcoming limitations be they genetic or physical, so to say that "genes may be key to great musicians" as the headline says, seems to me a bit of an exaggeration. While "good genes" (I use that term loosely) might be of benefit, even this paper would suggest it is not like the keystone of an arch, where if you remove it, everything goes tumbling down.

Interesting to note that the paper uses data form the National Merit Twin Study that looked at 850 same-sex twin pairs in 1962!!. They went through previous surveys for their data using self reported data though "there was evidence for their validity". Questionable data in my opinion, but to the authors credit they acknowledge this limitation, stating "[their] measures of both accomplishment and practice were fairly coarse" and that more research is needed to better quantify practice and degree of musical achievement as well as recognizing that accomplishment dose not necessarily correlate to skill.

They conclude with:

Quote
Although participants in the NMTS were likely to be a positively selected group of high-achieving students, they were not specifically selected to contain world-class music experts. Thus, the degree to which the present results would generalize to the highest levels of performance is unknown. Future genetically informative research on a special population of professional musicians would be necessary to understand the interplay between genetics, practice, and exceptional music performance.


As I said, an interesting paper, which at best suggests there MAY be some correlation with musicianship and genetics and that if there is, it is a combination of genetics and the environment. But as the authors themselves write, the application of the results to what we would consider "great musicians" is questionable.

Surprisingly to me, the news article is not too bad. I have certainly read worse where the conclusions the article draws is literally contrary to the research it references. But it does seem to paint this research as "perfect" without at all addressing its limitations. Thankfully Hambrick and his team know better and discuss in detail limits to their results. A good example of why I take scientific claims in the news with multiple handfuls of salt.

UGH...this ended up being a bit long... frown

For those interested here are the journal articles. You may or may not be able to get at the full version as they are often by subscription (which my workplace has). I won't bother listing all the authors...too many.

(1) Shin, T, et al., Cell biology: A cat cloned by nuclear transplantation, Nature 415, 2002, p 859.

(2) Hambrick, D. et al. The genetics of music accomplishment: Evidence for gene-environment correlation and interaction, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 20, 2014.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: MALDI_ToF] #2312053
08/06/14 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF

Not necessarily the case. A lovely example, published in 2002 in Nature by Shin, T. et al showed a cat, CC (apparently short for Copy Cat!), that was cloned (from Rainbow) where the colour of the CC's coat was not a copy of its genome donor's. They are quite different in appearance.


Originally Posted by Shin, T. et a

As with other genetically identical animals with multicoloured coats, the cloned kitten's colour patterning is not exactly the same as that of the nuclear donor this is because the pattern of pigmentation in multicoloured animals is the result not only of genetic factors but also of developmental factors that are not controlled by genotype.


Yes, this is an example of something that is not controlled directly by the genotype, but this is not what I'm arguing.

I'm saying that even things that do not contain a definition in the genotype are still bounded by genes at higher resolutions than are totally understood. No human is ever going to grow angel-like wings from his back if he "practices" it enough; our genes do not allow for this.

Again, we are bounded by our genes.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: Atrys] #2312069
08/06/14 05:57 PM
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But a genotype is the genetic constitution of a cell, an individual, or an organism. It can pertain to all genes or to a specific gene. Things that do not contain a definition in the genotype (i.e. a gene or set of genes) is bounded by genes?? That makes no sense.

"bounded by genes at higher resolutions than are totally understood." What does that mean? Higher resolution? Sounds like an argument from ignorance. Why not simply conclude there is insufficient evidence to form any conclusion and more research is needed?

Probably better to say, "bounded by our alleles".

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: MALDI_ToF] #2312081
08/06/14 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF

Things that do not contain a definition in the genotype (i.e. a gene or set of genes) is bounded by genes?? That makes no sense.

You only say that because you're not understanding.

If something is bounded by genes, then it must contain a definition. There is nothing that any living thing can do that is not allowed for by their genes (barring obvious external influences). Doing so would mean that I could grow a 6th finger if I only willed it enough. You're very ignorant; it's as if you're not even thinking about the material and instead letting your mouth (fingers) do the thinking.

Last edited by Atrys; 08/06/14 06:14 PM.

"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: Atrys] #2312088
08/06/14 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys
Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF

Things that do not contain a definition in the genotype (i.e. a gene or set of genes) is bounded by genes?? That makes no sense.

You only say that because you're not understanding.

If something is bounded by genes, then it must contain a definition. There is nothing that any living thing can do that is not allowed for by their genes (barring obvious external influences). Doing so would mean that I could grow a 6th finger if I only willed it enough. You're very ignorant; it's as if you're not even thinking about the material and instead letting your mouth (fingers) do the thinking.


Quite right, I don't understand...and still don't. Perhaps a link to a website that can clarify this for myself and others would helpful.

Love the ad hominem! smile

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: MALDI_ToF] #2312089
08/06/14 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF

I don't understand.

Do you believe that a person can achieve anything they wish if they just try hard enough?


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: outo] #2312151
08/06/14 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by phantomFive


People use genetics an excuse, for example, "I wasn't able to succeed teaching this kid, but I taught the other kid, so it must be because of genetics, not because I am a bad teacher." It's kind of a defense mechanism people use. Unfortunately, it also prevents them from reaching their full potential, either as a teacher or a student.


I agree, some people do. But some people being ignorant doesn't change the facts. After one really starts understanding genetics in theory and see it work in practice, it becomes obvious how important role the genes have. It would be impossible for me to ignore genetics in the complex system of human behavior and learning while still appreciating the importance of the environmental factors.

I think the biggest mistake people do is they consider the physical traits in humans somehow inherently different than the "mental" traits and see those two as something separate. They are not, they are part of the same system that is developed and maintained by a complex interaction of genetic material and the environment. So just as the genes determine your eye colour, they partly determine how you will interact with the environment straight from the birth. While there are almost infinite number of possible outcomes from this interaction, there are also a number of impossible outcomes, no matter what the environment.


It seems like you are sincere, so I will answer......maybe you are right.

What you have there is a hypothesis. The next step, if you'd like to progress further in your hypothesis, is to suggest what trait (since genes correspond to traits) you think limits a persons ability to play the piano. Then that hypothesis can be tested.

There are so many possible reasons that one person excels in piano and another doesn't, that to fixate on a single one, especially without examining it scientifically, is silly. Not only is it silly, but it won't help your piano progress, and can even impair it.


Yes, I am completely sincere and I really do not enjoy arguments for their own sake, I just like to bring out views I feel are neglected in conversations smile

What I wrote is based on a lot of research literature on genetics, learning, especially learning differences and difficulties, and psychology. There's still so much we do not know that anything you say is basically just an educated guess. But I think mine is educated enough for me to stand by it with firm legs smile

I haven't really talked to a scientist yet who would completely disagree on the general idea (but I am sure there are some), it's only about what they like to focus on. There is no single one trait that affects playing the piano, but there are countless that do on various levels starting from the shape of your fingers. Learning piano is not so completely different from any other learning that we couldn't use some of the information we have from other studies to better understand it.

What do you mean by fixating on a single trait, I never suggested that? In the best scenario one does understand where one's personal weaknesses are, one has or tries to look for suitable tools to work on those EVEN when understanding that it may not be possible to COMPLETELY erase their effect. And sometimes one needs to look for ways to COMPENSATE those weaknesses. This scenario does not include working less or in a sloppy way because one "has bad genes", but nor does it mean that one thinks "ANYTHING is possible if I just try enough". Rather "A LOT is possible if I work the right way and that might be a lot more than what I think NOW".

I admit there may indeed be someone who does benefit from grandous ideas of becoming the next Horowitch after starting at 30, but the majority would soon be discouraged by reality...

Does this make it any clearer?

Why is it even important? Because ignoring the effects of individual traits on learning will not help those who struggle at all, rather we make them think that it's completely a problem of their WILL if what works for the next guy doesn't work for them no matter how hard they try. That is a good way to kill all motivation and make people quit.

I like your idea here, to look at what your limitations are, and find a way to work around them.

When it comes to piano, there are many traits where 99% of people have good enough genes to achieve the top level.

For an obvious example, eyesight helps to learn the piano, but as long as you can read the music, having better eyesight won't help you more.

Another trait is muscle strength. As long as you have the hand-muscle strength of a 12-year-old girl, it's not clear that someone with stronger hand genes is going to have any easier time playing the piano. Once you hit the level of sufficiency, piling more on doesn't help.

As chopin_r_us alluded to, nerves signals travel down your arm in 6 milliseconds. As an imaginative experiment, do you really think it would matter if someone's nerves traveled even 20% faster? Then the signal would get there in 5 milliseconds instead of 6. This is another trait that is important (the signal does need to travel down your arm), but once you hit the crucial level, it is enough.

The real question is whether there are any traits that would actually limit piano potential. For example, I used to think that a top-level technique needed long fingers (like Horowitz and Cziffra). Yuja Wang and Wael Farouk disabused me of that notion.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: phantomFive] #2312152
08/06/14 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive

The real question is whether there are any traits that would actually limit piano potential.

Yes, there are; we know pretty much all of the big ones.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: MALDI_ToF] #2312153
08/06/14 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF
Originally Posted by Atrys

We are bounded in every way by our genes.

You're grossly misunderstanding this material.


Not necessarily the case. A lovely example, published in 2002 in Nature by Shin, T. et al showed a cat, CC (apparently short for Copy Cat!), that was cloned (from Rainbow) where the colour of the CC's coat was not a copy of its genome donor's. They are quite different in appearance.

Quote
[...] this is because the pattern of pigmentation in multicoloured animals is the result not only of genetic factors but also of developmental factors that are not controlled by genotype.


This does not actually go contrary to the original paper the news article was reporting. Having seen examples of shoddy reporting in the past, I went right to the original paper by Hambrick, D. et al in the Psychon. Bull. Rev.. An interesting read, certainly more informative than the news article.

To quote from their abstract:

Quote
[We] found evidence for gene-environment interaction, such that genetic effects on music accomplishment were most pronounced among those engaging in music practice, suggesting that genetic potentials for skilled performance are most fully expressed and fostered by practice. [emphasis added]


This to me suggests that other factors, such as practice also come into play. One my be genetically predisposed to be a good musician, but you must be properly nurtured to fully exploit that predisposition. But then humans are quite good at overcoming limitations be they genetic or physical, so to say that "genes may be key to great musicians" as the headline says, seems to me a bit of an exaggeration. While "good genes" (I use that term loosely) might be of benefit, even this paper would suggest it is not like the keystone of an arch, where if you remove it, everything goes tumbling down.

Interesting to note that the paper uses data form the National Merit Twin Study that looked at 850 same-sex twin pairs in 1962!!. They went through previous surveys for their data using self reported data though "there was evidence for their validity". Questionable data in my opinion, but to the authors credit they acknowledge this limitation, stating "[their] measures of both accomplishment and practice were fairly coarse" and that more research is needed to better quantify practice and degree of musical achievement as well as recognizing that accomplishment dose not necessarily correlate to skill.

They conclude with:

Quote
Although participants in the NMTS were likely to be a positively selected group of high-achieving students, they were not specifically selected to contain world-class music experts. Thus, the degree to which the present results would generalize to the highest levels of performance is unknown. Future genetically informative research on a special population of professional musicians would be necessary to understand the interplay between genetics, practice, and exceptional music performance.


As I said, an interesting paper, which at best suggests there MAY be some correlation with musicianship and genetics and that if there is, it is a combination of genetics and the environment. But as the authors themselves write, the application of the results to what we would consider "great musicians" is questionable.

Surprisingly to me, the news article is not too bad. I have certainly read worse where the conclusions the article draws is literally contrary to the research it references. But it does seem to paint this research as "perfect" without at all addressing its limitations. Thankfully Hambrick and his team know better and discuss in detail limits to their results. A good example of why I take scientific claims in the news with multiple handfuls of salt.

UGH...this ended up being a bit long... frown

For those interested here are the journal articles. You may or may not be able to get at the full version as they are often by subscription (which my workplace has). I won't bother listing all the authors...too many.

(1) Shin, T, et al., Cell biology: A cat cloned by nuclear transplantation, Nature 415, 2002, p 859.

(2) Hambrick, D. et al. The genetics of music accomplishment: Evidence for gene-environment correlation and interaction, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 20, 2014.


This is such a great post, I want to print it out and frame it on my wall. This is the kind of post that makes these conversations worthwhile, it is so full of information.

Even if I disagreed with you, I would still find this post worth reading.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: phantomFive] #2312200
08/07/14 12:10 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive


When it comes to piano, there are many traits where 99% of people have good enough genes to achieve the top level.



Of course (having two hands is a good example), but don't you agree that there are also many traits where this is not the case?

Quite a large proportion of people have trouble learning much easier skills than playing advanced piano music beautifully (reading, writing, calculating, moving gracefully for example) and even after receiving much special education and support are not able to compete with an average person who learned such things almost with no effort. And research clearly suggests that many of such issues have genetic background as well.

I see top level pianism not as an ability to hit notes fast. Even that can be limited by one's physique, since not all hands "fit" our present piano keyboard as well and people have differences in their reflex speed and muscle tissue. Top level pianism is a mix of countless of extraordinary skills and not least musical understanding. To excel in all those skills requires a lot of work, but also a favorable genetic make up.

But I must point out that the same favourable genetic traits that help you become a great pianist, might as well help you develope into greatness in something else. It's not about having "pianist" genes, it's about having a suitable mix of genes that one can base all the work on.

The fascinating thing about genetics is that a very small difference in the actual genes may cause a very big difference between individuals. That's because the genes do not only affect specific traits, they do interact with each other in many ways. We are all full on tiny mutations that make us different. Some differences are clear from the birth, but some only become evident after more interaction with the environment. And since no two environments are completely the same either, even a very small difference in genes can have a large effect. All this is not under control of the individual and when they reach a point where they are able to start making their own decisions about how to work on something, much will already be set. One can still develope and change in many ways, but no-one is a blank canvas when it comes to learning.

Last edited by outo; 08/07/14 12:12 AM.
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: outo] #2312217
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by phantomFive


When it comes to piano, there are many traits where 99% of people have good enough genes to achieve the top level.



Of course (having two hands is a good example), but don't you agree that there are also many traits where this is not the case?

Quite a large proportion of people have trouble learning much easier skills than playing advanced piano music beautifully (reading, writing, calculating, moving gracefully for example) and even after receiving much special education and support are not able to compete with an average person who learned such things almost with no effort. And research clearly suggests that many of such issues have genetic background as well.

I see top level pianism not as an ability to hit notes fast. Even that can be limited by one's physique, since not all hands "fit" our present piano keyboard as well and people have differences in their reflex speed and muscle tissue. Top level pianism is a mix of countless of extraordinary skills and not least musical understanding. To excel in all those skills requires a lot of work, but also a favorable genetic make up.

But I must point out that the same favourable genetic traits that help you become a great pianist, might as well help you develope into greatness in something else. It's not about having "pianist" genes, it's about having a suitable mix of genes that one can base all the work on.

The fascinating thing about genetics is that a very small difference in the actual genes may cause a very big difference between individuals. That's because the genes do not only affect specific traits, they do interact with each other in many ways. We are all full on tiny mutations that make us different. Some differences are clear from the birth, but some only become evident after more interaction with the environment. And since no two environments are completely the same either, even a very small difference in genes can have a large effect. All this is not under control of the individual and when they reach a point where they are able to start making their own decisions about how to work on something, much will already be set. One can still develope and change in many ways, but no-one is a blank canvas when it comes to learning.

Sure, things like reflexes might be a limiting factor that some people can't overcome (I don't think so, because I can't see how reflexes are very useful for piano playing unless it's to dodge the fallboard when the cat knocks it closed).

However, it's better to find the limit rather than just assume that it's there (which is what you are doing now), otherwise you are preventing yourself from reaching your potential, unnecessarily.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians [Re: phantomFive] #2312223
08/07/14 02:48 AM
08/07/14 02:48 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,090
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trigalg693 Offline
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trigalg693  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,090
New York
Originally Posted by phantomFive

However, it's better to find the limit rather than just assume that it's there (which is what you are doing now), otherwise you are preventing yourself from reaching your potential, unnecessarily.


Exactly. This is why I hate when people say "you are so talented!"; it implies that there's something innate about a skill, when it is 99% learned. I spent thousands upon thousands of hours practicing, I would hope that my playing sounds at least somewhat good. If you can feel improvement, then your limit is a long ways off.

This even goes for "prodigies", their skills might be exceptional for their age or for any person, but if you took everyone and gave them the same amount of training, a lot more people than you might expect would be able to reproduce those results or get close.

Last edited by trigalg693; 08/07/14 02:53 AM.
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