Oral Communication

Apollo's Gift: Music as a driver for beneficial brain plasticity


a University of Music, Drama and Media

Sensory-motor skills of musicians have some specific qualities: learning begins at an early age in a playful atmosphere. Routines for stereotyped movements are rehearsed for extended periods of time with gradually increasing degrees of complexity. Via auditory feedback, the motor performance is extremely controllable by both, performer and audience. All movements are strongly linked to emotions, - pleasure or anxiety - , processed by the limbic system. These specific circumstances seem to play an important role for plastic adaptation at several levels of the central nervous system.

In the lecture, I focus on the functional and anatomical changes of cortical and subcortical brain regions observed in beginner and advanced musicians. Plastic adaptations of the auditory as well as the sensory-motor system are not only reflected in functional but also in morphological changes. Auditory-sensorimotor integration is accompanied by rapid modulations of neuronal connectivity in the time range of 20 minutes. I then will focus on music-supported Therapy (MST), which has been developed during the last decade in order to improve motor functions after stroke. The rationale behind this therapy is that motor improvement occurs due to auditory feedback, central-nervous auditory-motor coupling, and/or replacement or reinforcement of proprioceptive information by auditory cues. Behavioral data has shown positive effects of these interventions. The detailed mechanisms and the use of modern technology with auditory real-time feedback will be addressed.