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Fun Facts About the Science of Sound
By Elizabeth Holmes

#1. Audio Engineering - Good For Your Brain!

This article begins a VoiceOverXtra occasional series on vocal oddities, by voice actor and Staff Editor Elizabeth Holmes. Enjoy these glimpses into the science of sound - and learn more about how it benefits you.

(VOXtra) - I love ‘brainy’ stuff – especially when it involves voice over!  

Blame it on my performance as Ms. Hippo (the hippocampus) in the children’s videogame Every Body Has A Brain. I was privileged to work with the Morphonix team on this project, sponsored in part by the National Institute of Health.   

Since that time, my ‘radar’ has been tuned to news that unites my twin passions - voice over and brain science. 

So, imagine my delight at running across this fun factoid. Scientists at University College of London just published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience on piano tuners.

They found that, compared to a control group, years of practice by these acoustic professionals created changes in the hippocampus in their brains - the area of the brain traditionally associated with memory and navigation (not the auditory cortex – the area of the brain associated with hearing).  

YEAH, SO? ...

What does this have to do with audio engineering? Well, it appears that listening long and well makes your brain healthier by increasing neural connections.   

A previous study on London taxicab drivers concluded that the hippocampus governs spatial relationships, and that years of practicing London’s labyrinthine routes (called "The Knowledge”) improved drivers’ memory and adaptability. 

This study was the first to examine changes in the brain brought on by years of acoustic practice - and, find similar benefits.   


Piano tuners do not need musical training or perfect pitch to do the work they do. Their skill set involves a specialized form of listening. 

And the piano tuners who participated in this study did not use any special electronic equipment. They did it all "by ear."  

So, the next time you’re stuck for hours at your digital audio station bemoaning the time it takes to hear and correct nuances in vocal performances, just know:  It’s good for your brain! 

For details on this fascinating study, check out this link:
Tuning the brain: how piano tuning may cause changes to brain structure  


Elizabeth Holmes is a writer, voice actor, and staff editor at VoiceOverXtra, based in Northern California. She is also editor of VoiceOverXtra's book division, including Voice Over Legal, by voice actor / attorney Robert Sciglimpaglia.


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Comments (8)
9/12/2012 at 3:39 PM
Good one, Elizabeth! I've always wondered how I got so smart in my old age...I assumed it was just maturity. But now I know it's due to my life in "cans." Who knew? Seriously, this is the kind of ancillary stuff that makes the VO biz FUN! I look forward to more in your series!
Jay Webb
9/11/2012 at 10:43 AM
Perhaps I can get a "double dose" of brain improvement by hours and hours of editing AND by getting out my piano tuning equipment and getting busy. I got the stuff years ago and didn't do much with it.

Thanks Elizabeth! This really is very enlightening.
Paul J. Warwick
9/11/2012 at 10:43 AM
I believe it!

I have noticed that through listening while editing long form narration, I perform better at the mic! Sort of editing with my lips as it were...
Dan Friedman
9/11/2012 at 10:07 AM
I've said, "this (audio engineering) isn't brain surgery." I guess I can't say that anymore. Okay, it still isn't brain "surgery" but... it is good news. :-)

Dan Friedman
9/10/2012 at 11:47 PM
Good to know, Elizabeth. I, too, am fascinated with the brain and how it works. I took a minor in psychology at university and was delighted to be able to narrate a psychology textbook this past summer. I have even recently subscribed to "Scientific American - Mind" (a magazine I had picked up at the store to use to record a non-fiction audiobook demo; most things in my life tie back to voice over these days - LOL). So, I am of course thrilled to know that I am forging new neuro-pathways when I'm editing. The more perks I can find for editing the better.

As I've gotten more skillful at editing over the years, I have gotten to the point where I actually enjoy it sometimes. Isolating and removing a tiny click in the middle of a word and having it sound flawless after can feel very rewarding.

However, I always love working at someone else's studio so I just have to voice, cash my check and leave them to deal with all the rest!

Now, when I start sighing over the amount of editing I have to do, I can remember all that exercise I'm giving my brain. Now, can you find an article that says editing improves my physical health 'cause sitting here doing all of this editing ain't help me out much in that respect, if ya know what I mean!
Dan Lenard
9/10/2012 at 11:43 PM
And I thought it was just because I ate lots of fish!
Roxanne Coyne
9/10/2012 at 11:30 PM
That is really interesting. I grew up playing several musical instruments so I understand what listening to sustained notes and evaluating pitch is all about. I don't really think my memory is any better than the next person's, though! Perhaps my memory was better before I had kids. It seems that having kids affects the memory in a number of ways but I can't remember what they are. Thanks for a great article, Elizabeth!
Jan Anderson
9/10/2012 at 6:15 PM
Hi Elizabeth - Very interesting article! Now I'll know that while I might feel like I'm frying my brain, I'm actually doing it some good! And I need all the help I can get. ;-) Thank you - I'll look forward to your next installment.
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