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Learning With Music Can Change Brain Structure

Summary: Listening to music while learning a new physical skill can help increase connectivity in the white matter tract linking auditory and motor regions of the brain, a new study reports.

Source: University of Edinburugh.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

Image shows a brain and music notes.

Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation programmes, such as after a stroke.

The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

The results are published in the journal Brain & Cognition.

Dr Katie Overy, who led the research team said: “The study suggests that music makes a key difference. We have long known that music encourages people to move. This study provides the first experimental evidence that adding musical cues to learning new motor task can lead to changes in white matter structure in the brain.”

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Edd McCracken – University of Edinburugh
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Diffusion tensor MRI tractography reveals increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in arcuate fasciculus following music-cued motor training” by Emma Moore, Rebecca S. Schaefer, Mark E. Bastin, Neil Roberts, and Katie Overy in Brain & Cognition. Published online June 12 2017 doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2017.05.001

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Edinburugh “Learning With Music Can Change Brain Structure.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 6 July 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/music-learning-brain-structure-7037/>.
University of Edinburugh (2017, July 6). Learning With Music Can Change Brain Structure. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 6, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/music-learning-brain-structure-7037/
University of Edinburugh “Learning With Music Can Change Brain Structure.” http://neurosciencenews.com/music-learning-brain-structure-7037/ (accessed July 6, 2017).

Abstract

Diffusion tensor MRI tractography reveals increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in arcuate fasciculus following music-cued motor training

Auditory cues are frequently used to support movement learning and rehabilitation, but the neural basis of this behavioural effect is not yet clear. We investigated the microstructural neuroplasticity effects of adding musical cues to a motor learning task. We hypothesised that music-cued, left-handed motor training would increase fractional anisotropy (FA) in the contralateral arcuate fasciculus, a fibre tract connecting auditory, pre-motor and motor regions. Thirty right-handed participants were assigned to a motor learning condition either with (Music Group) or without (Control Group) musical cues. Participants completed 20 minutes of training three times per week over four weeks. Diffusion tensor MRI and probabilistic neighbourhood tractography identified FA, axial (AD) and radial (RD) diffusivity before and after training. Results revealed that FA increased significantly in the right arcuate fasciculus of the Music group only, as hypothesised, with trends for AD to increase and RD to decrease, a pattern of results consistent with activity-dependent increases in myelination. No significant changes were found in the left ipsilateral arcuate fasciculus of either group. This is the first evidence that adding musical cues to movement learning can induce rapid microstructural change in white matter pathways in adults, with potential implications for therapeutic clinical practice.

“Diffusion tensor MRI tractography reveals increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in arcuate fasciculus following music-cued motor training” by Emma Moore, Rebecca S. Schaefer, Mark E. Bastin, Neil Roberts, and Katie Overy in Brain & Cognition. Published online June 12 2017 doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2017.05.001

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