Tseng YT, Tsai CL, Chen FC. Wrist proprioceptive acuity is linked to fine motor function in children undergoing piano training. J Neurophysiol 124: 2052-2059, 2020. First published October 28, 2020; doi:10.1152/jn.00282.2020.-Playing the piano involves rapid and precise upper limb movements, which require seamless integration of the proprioceptive and motor systems. In this study, we comprehensively assessed active and passive proprioception and different domains of motor function in young pianists, aiming to understand how their proprioceptive and motor functions are improved. Fifty-seven participants, including seventeen 11- to 12-yr-old (young) pianists, 20 children, and 20 adults, were included. The children in the pianist group had received piano training for 6 yr, whereas the children and adults in the control groups had no previous experience with instrumental training. All participants performed a psychophysical discrimination threshold hunting task and an ipsilateral joint position reproduction task, both of which measured the position sense acuity of the wrist. Their motor function was evaluated by the Movement Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd edition. The results revealed that the young pianists showed a significantly lower position sense discrimination threshold (31%) and fewer joint position reproduction errors (49%) than the nontrained children. Second, a higher level of manual dexterity, but not of ball skills or balance, was found in the young pianist group. Third, a higher proprioceptive acuity (i.e., decreased position sense discrimination threshold) significantly correlated with higher manual dexterity. This study documents that a high wrist position sense is a common characteristic among young pianists. The increased upper limb position sense acuity is correlated with better manual dexterity, suggesting that piano practice may benefit untrained fine motor skills in children. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We document that improved proprioceptive acuity is a common feature in young pianists. This proprioceptive improvement is associated with both proprioceptive processing and proprioceptive-motor integration. Higher wrist proprioceptive acuity in young pianists is linked to enhanced manual dexterity, which suggests that intensive piano training may improve untrained fine motor skills.
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