Measuring distance

I’ve got a friend who is a phenomenal realistic artist. He’s able to render pencil and painted images that look very similar to reality.

He’s also a good musician, particularly a pianist. And for the most part, largely self taught. He seems to be one of the people of has a natural proclivity for the piano; what some would call talent.

Now, a while back, I was reading “The Tell-Tale Brain” by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran. He noted that there was a part of the brain devoted to our understanding of spatial dimensions e.g. how far apart things are from each other and from us. He also noted that for some reason this part of the brain is strong in young autistics, and consequently, they are often artistically gifted. In essence, they can look at an image (in reality, or in their head, I suppose) and translate the spatial relationships related to what they see to what they draw on paper.

So, it seems likely this artist friend of mine has such a gift in regards to visual imagery. But would this apply to his piano talent as well? In essence, if you hear a melody in your head and then re-create it, you are essentially measuring the distance between each of the the notes in the melody. Unlike visual imagery, you’re not measuring spatial distance, you’re measuring something more ambiguous — steps on a musical scale, or the frequency of sound vibrations. But, in the big picture, it’s the same process: measuring something abstract and then re-creating it. So I’m wondering if there’s a part of the brain dedicated to this? Not just measuring specific “somethings” like spatial distance or sound vibrations, but just measuring the difference between similar elements (sound, space, smells etc.) in general.

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