Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Health Sciences


Katherine Ott-Walter

Derek Strong

Erika Collazo-Vargas

Robert Koslow


Silencing music across the globe, musician’s dystonia, a neurological condition with an unknown etiological basis, has played an integral role in terminating professional musician’s careers. While limited research has been conducted into internal/external factors which may potentially influence musician’s focal dystonia onset, this pilot study sought to identify specific instrumentalists’ behaviors and traits which may exhibit a potential relationship with disease onset and, consequently, the ability to utilize sensory tricks. This specifically included examination of practice approach, auditory/kinesthetic feedback, years played, personality, and approach to practice among the musicians being studied. To assess these characteristics within the dystonic musician population and to determine how this data related to healthy/undiagnosed music students of James Madison University (JMU), a survey instrument created based upon application of the Social Cognitive Theory was distributed. Resulting data analysis indicated fatigue based practice techniques were commonly used among both dystonic musicians and symptomatic JMU students and that maladaptive auditory/kinesthetic feedback mechanisms were positively correlated with negative symptoms. Findings further helped identify which sensory tricks were most commonly employed by dystonic musicians, exposing that instrumental genre may be influential in determining which types are typically chosen to ameliorate negative symptoms. In addition, results which revealed that half of JMU’s music student population currently exhibit dystonic symptoms and unknowingly use sensory tricks generates implications for future research in regards to what preventative changes could be implemented within the educational program. Therefore, the objective of this thesis was to gain not only a comprehensive understanding of potential factors related to musician’s dystonia, but to both expand on previous literature and potentially impact future health outcomes of musicians.



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