"Brain scans show that musicians' new neuronal connections vary according to the instrument they play. Violinists have their signature brain changes, brass players theirs. Loving what we do helps to form these new connections, because the same dopamine chemistry that gives us the pleasurable rush of reward consolidates new brain connections."
This reminded me of something the Freakonomics guys, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, wrote about a few years ago. See A Star Is Made. Here are some excerpts:
"Anders Ericsson, a 58-year-old psychology professor at Florida State University. He is the ringleader of what might be called the Expert Performance Movement, a loose coalition of scholars trying to answer an important and seemingly primordial question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good?"
He believes in "deliberate practice" which
"... entails more than simply repeating a task — playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome."
"[Ericsson] makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better."
"Ericsson's conclusions, if accurate, would seem to have broad applications. Students should be taught to follow their interests earlier in their schooling, the better to build up their skills and acquire meaningful feedback."