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As good a succinct write up on the topic as you'll find is here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_period_hypothesis

Extrapolation to other areas apart from first language acquisition in ages under 5, let alone physical domain motor skills, is wild off the wall speculation. We know about as much of how the brain works as the Romans knew about the circulatory system.

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Just one more way to htink about this:
When I was in college the current belief regarding rehabilitation, learning and mind took a precept into account as a basis for a rehab approach.
-it was;
A human child is born with 2 "fears' which are in fact an instinct.
1. Falling.
2. Loud noises.
And, one should know all other nuances of fear have been learnt that assist or deter rehab. Plasticity and ability for change however small, even at 1% could make all the difference if utilized.
But, also a healthy realism- ie.e piaget 's research doesn't apply only to children; the premises prevent frustration from unrealistic expectation or even underexpectations .
So, frown I guess I won't fly [no wings] ....until I buy a plane and take xanax to help unlearn my fear of flying.




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My amateur opinion based on observation: children may learn to play piano more easily with dextrous fluidity, but they play more mechanically until their adult brain kicks in. Then they want to play beautifully, or with soul, or some kind of expression. And maybe they can, maybe they can't.

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The last thing I want to do is to start a debate on whether kids learn piano more easily than adults.

Don't like to generalize. Kids who started early have a good chance of getting to an advanced level. However, today's kids have a much shorter attention span due to being glued to a screen. Kids need to be motivated to sit still and practice piano for at least an hour a day even if they get no homework during their summer holidays.

Adults have different sets of problems. We are constantly preoccupied with work, family obligations, etc. There are days we can't put in the time for music practice even if we want to. Someone like myself grew up without computers or the Internet so screen time is secondary. We have more life experiences and there are pieces of music we're familiar with. Kids have to learn everything from scratch.

There are people in my family circle who got enrolled in piano at an early age and quit after a few years. I'm someone who was a slow learner and would take at least twice as long to master a new skill. As an adult learner, I'm much better learning new songs on the piano. At age 5 I had a few lessons but didn't get very far until age 35 before I had the courage to try again. It was a difficult journey with nobody around to support me. I became more determined to move forward. I'm with a group of adult learners who got into piano as a hobby. People for various reasons can't get into piano at a young age are travelling on the same path today.

My biggest motivation is social media. Having online access allowed me to master playing at an intermediate level than relying on a teacher and hard work alone. I know people who took music lessons in the past still rely on a teacher when there is a lot of info already posted online including the PW forum.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
Here's another musician beginning to understand the merits of using motor learning theory to enhance a pianist's performance:

Paper


There's so much information on this topic just do a search.

The take-home lesson in this short article is that slow practice leads to fast learning. I think the 'learn it right the first time' principle has been around for awhile, though perhaps not the understanding of the underlying neural "backroom" activity.

Quote
...This then suggests that the engagement of motor planning and preparation areas is crucial for refining the eventual pathways that lead to execution of the motor movement.

Learning a new piece of music, therefore, is akin to learning a new motor task. The initial periods of sight-reading all the notes and laboring over individual notes are painstaking.

Yet it appears that this painstaking period is important and necessary for motor learning. Therefore, rather than rushing through it, a musician should actually do this part very carefully and methodically. It may be that the more a musician engages the initial planning and preparation areas through slow practice, the more robust the neural network becomes for the final execution. ....it is much easier to just embrace the pain in the beginning and learn the piece correctly so that the “correct” neural networks are formed from the get-go.


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Originally Posted by piano_primo
Just one more way to htink about this:
When I was in college the current belief ---
A human child is born with 2 "fears' which are in fact an instinct.
1. Falling.
2. Loud noises.
And, one should know all other nuances of fear have been learnt that assist or deter rehab. Plasticity and ability for change however small, even at 1% could make all the difference if utilized.
But, also a healthy realism- ie.e piaget 's research doesn't apply only to children; the premises prevent frustration from unrealistic expectation or even underexpectations .
So, frown I guess I won't fly [no wings] ....until I buy a plane and take xanax to help unlearn my fear of flying.
SO this was missed, but I congratulate The OP for ridding the self of this unconscious primal fear of loud piano noise AND falling off the bench. -Wheeew!
As far as children learning ? Did you ever see kids at age 3-4 at a parade? or in church? , As soon as it gets loud, they scream like mad and try to BOLT!
Simple.... yet true... explanation.




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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Jethro:
Quote
My background is in cognitive neuroscience before I became a clinician and I've done many a graduate course on motor learning.

It is wishful thinking on our part to believe that our brains are equally plastic throughout our lifespan when overwhelming straightforward evidence shows this is not the case.

I didn't say "equally" but rather that adults are far less limited than previously thought.

I don't think I've ever read anything specifically about motor learning, so I will defer to you on that.

Quote
Ask an adult to learn a new language for 5 years

This is a meaningless statement. What is the learning context? What kind of linguistic input does the adult receive? What are the learning activities? What is the adult's motivation for learning?

Anyway, let's not go there.

The ability of adults to learn new things is not as hopeless as you make it sound.

(edited because word choice)

Oh---experts can argue these questions expertly and alas those without expertise can likewise argue endlessly and without expertise.


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Never seen a thread devolve so far from the OP!


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Nope, no issues with it at all.
Took lessons from 1960 to 1969, stopped at age 16.
Started again in July 2020 at age 67. Lots more fun now!
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by Jethro
Here's another musician beginning to understand the merits of using motor learning theory to enhance a pianist's performance:

Paper


There's so much information on this topic just do a search.

The take-home lesson in this short article is that slow practice leads to fast learning. I think the 'learn it right the first time' principle has been around for awhile, though perhaps not the understanding of the underlying neural "backroom" activity.

Quote
...This then suggests that the engagement of motor planning and preparation areas is crucial for refining the eventual pathways that lead to execution of the motor movement.

Learning a new piece of music, therefore, is akin to learning a new motor task. The initial periods of sight-reading all the notes and laboring over individual notes are painstaking.

Yet it appears that this painstaking period is important and necessary for motor learning. Therefore, rather than rushing through it, a musician should actually do this part very carefully and methodically. It may be that the more a musician engages the initial planning and preparation areas through slow practice, the more robust the neural network becomes for the final execution. ....it is much easier to just embrace the pain in the beginning and learn the piece correctly so that the “correct” neural networks are formed from the get-go.
Exactly. This was just one example of how one could use theories in motor learning/control to understand why slow practice leads to faster learning. There is much more that can be explored.

For those interested here is probably one of the better overviews of motor control and motor learning theories I've found on the net: here

I would suggest looking at Ecological Theory of motor learning which combines the motor control theories of Ecological Theory and Systems Theory of motor control. This is cutting edge research on how to optimize learning any motor skill including something such as learning how to play the piano as an adult. In the medical field we were forced to come up with theories on how to regain skills following neurological injuries such as stroke simply because there was a need, but these theories are equally applicable to any sport, performance art, job skills etc...

In the old days we used to think that repetition, repetition, repetition was the way to reeducate the adult brain to learn new skills after brain injury. This was our version of teaching an adult new skills by using techniques analogous to learning "scales". Using the latest theories of motor learning such as the Ecological motor learning theory has advanced rehabilitation beyond that and we realized by giving patients purposeful activities with goals that take into account individual constraints, environmental constraints, and task constraints we were able to improve skill acquisition much quicker and with longer lasting effects. These same theories can be applied to teaching adults how to play the piano with faster results in my opinion. Someone just has to write the book.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
To add insult to injury, I now can't even speak my native languages (there were two of them) properly, and often have to resort to asking my youngest sister (who still lives there, but is also fluent in English) to translate for me when speaking to my mother. And not only that, when I do try to speak them, I have a very strong "Western" accent, such that the 'natives' can barely understand a word.

BTW, I speak English with a 'neutral' accent, which seems to emanate from somewhere in Northern Europe (probably a sunken island in the North Sea between the UK and the Netherlands and Norway), so I've been told by friends and foes.......

Don't believe anyone who tells you that you can never lose what you learnt in childhood, including languages and accents - you can basically lose everything through disuse.

Except piano, of course smirk .

A dear piano colleague and friend is a native Ukrainian speaker. She began speaking Russian mid-elementary school after a move to a more Russian-speaking part of Ukraine, and later emigrated to the USA where nobody really spoke Ukrainian to her for decades--if she wasn't speaking English, she spoke Russian. Now, if you ask her to do it, she almost can't, and this is a language she spoke first, and before her move out of Ukraine at age 22, had never left it. She struggles for words, and while she can get into the groove of it, it takes her several hours of thinking in Ukrainian to hold a non-stilted conversation in it. Even when it comes back to her in a way that is useful enough to speak, her accent is weird, she says, too.

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My dad was born in Poland, Moved to England after WWII as a teenager. Came to USA in the 1950's. As time passed by he spoke less and less Polish. He said he couldn't understand the new immigrants coming over from Poland. Mind you we lived in Chicago in a Polish neighborhood and over time he lost/forgot the language. He use to go to Polish Mass as a way to try but said he couldn't understand the new Polish Priest.


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted by bennevis
To add insult to injury, I now can't even speak my native languages (there were two of them) properly, and often have to resort to asking my youngest sister (who still lives there, but is also fluent in English) to translate for me when speaking to my mother. And not only that, when I do try to speak them, I have a very strong "Western" accent, such that the 'natives' can barely understand a word.

BTW, I speak English with a 'neutral' accent, which seems to emanate from somewhere in Northern Europe (probably a sunken island in the North Sea between the UK and the Netherlands and Norway), so I've been told by friends and foes.......

Don't believe anyone who tells you that you can never lose what you learnt in childhood, including languages and accents - you can basically lose everything through disuse.

Except piano, of course smirk .

A dear piano colleague and friend is a native Ukrainian speaker. She began speaking Russian mid-elementary school after a move to a more Russian-speaking part of Ukraine, and later emigrated to the USA where nobody really spoke Ukrainian to her for decades--if she wasn't speaking English, she spoke Russian. Now, if you ask her to do it, she almost can't, and this is a language she spoke first, and before her move out of Ukraine at age 22, had never left it. She struggles for words, and while she can get into the groove of it, it takes her several hours of thinking in Ukrainian to hold a non-stilted conversation in it. Even when it comes back to her in a way that is useful enough to speak, her accent is weird, she says, too.
Actually this makes a lot of sense. Remember the idea of the critical period is a period where the brain so adaptable and malleable (plastic) that is is learning what is important and what is not important that by the end of the critical period it has pruned away what is not important and more or less hardwired what is important. Your colleague is a perfect example. Although she learned Ukranian until mid elementary school she stopped using it after that and began speaking Russian. Critical periods for different skills can vary in length for different skills and for language it now thought that the critical period may last through high school until you are 17 or 18. This MIT Study. By her mid teens your colleague's brain "determined" that Russian was the main language and laid down a plethora of neural circuits and it "pruned" away her first language Ukranian because she stopped using it. At that point Russian was hardwired as a dominant language. That's why although she lives in a predominantly English speaking country, if she wasn't speaking in English she speaks in Russian and can barely speak Ukranian. If she was to be truly bilingual in Ukranian and Russian she should have been using both languages regularly during the critical period and she would be speaking both languages fluently today. [Again a great reason why it is wise to teach children ALL the scales/arpeggios and practice them regularly in their youth]

The brain is such an amazing structure and it has it's maximum malleability (plasticity- or the ability to make connections between brain cells) at birth. The brain is so malleable in a child that in the earliest ages you can literally scoop out half of their brains and they still develop into pretty much normal children as the other half of the brain adapts to the situation and creates whatever connections it needs to make in order to survive and thrive. This phenomenon is actually seen with children with intractable seizures (severe epilepsy). To stop the cross talk (literally short circuiting) between either side of the brain at the temporal lobes or beyond a neurosurgeon will perform a hemispherectomy where they may completely remove one side of the brain (sometimes less) to stop the seizures. You can read about it here: Johns Hopkin Study and here.

Yes those kids with half a brain can learn to play the piano just as good as you and I if not better. Try any of these surgeries on an adult brain and if an adult survived such a procedure they would be paralyzed on one side of the body and with severe loss of cognitive function (memory, motor skills, perception, vision, planning, and information processing in general). Anyone here still think there are no difference between and adult brain and a child's brain?


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Quote
Anyone here still think there are no difference between and adult brain and a child's brain?

Is anyone saying that? I'm certainly not. And no one is suggesting that cutting out half of the adult brain would be a good thing to do for adults who want to learn how to play the piano. (thank goodness! grin )

But the Cognition study is more limited than you (or the MIT article) suggest. The other thing I will say is that the trend in research on a critical period or sensitive period for language learning is that new studies tend to push the timeline out (i.e., subsequent studies tend to find that it closes at a later age). And the Cognition study certainly did that.

This fits in with my larger point, and your comments about what you find in your clinical work -- that adults' brain are much more flexible than previously thought, that we don't know yet what the best methods are for maximizing of adults' cognitive learning capabilities, but that when successful methods are found, learning outcomes improve.


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Maybe





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I wonder if this thread will be still going when the OP returns to piano playing, as I guess (and hope) he will wink


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A discussion on the brain doesn't convince everybody to like playing piano. I know someone who is in the 90s, still has a sharp mind but not in a hurry to take up piano.

Somebody who is supposedly intelligent like a scientist may / may not enjoy playing music. Saying that a child has intelligence doesn't mean he/she would take up piano. The study of the brain is 1 thing, getting someone to pick up an instrument and like playing is something else.

Being intelligent is 1 thing. There is still the perception having the talent for music requires somebody to be musical, not just intelligent.

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