Music-evoked Brain Plasticity

Motivation (Background):

Neuroscientifically informed music therapy is on the verge of a break through to novel and highly effective forms of social/medical intervention (Altenmüller et al., 2009, Schneider et al., 2007, Sarkamo et al., 2008). A key feature in how this can be achieved is by novel forms of music technology that allow for a newly acquired embodiment of musical actions.

Ideas / Goals:

Our key research hypothesis is that motor training with musical agency (the goal/intention during agency is a modulation of musical sounds) involves motor learning processes that are more beneficial than conventional motor learning (faster, different in quality, easier to recapitulate, longer retention). This is probably a consequence of musical expression drawing partly on motor processes that we also use for communication, which are not exclusively under deliberate control, but to substantial degree involve emotional motor control (Holstege et al., 1996).
The repetitiveness of musical sound structure and its often perceived inherent pleasantness make music the perfect tool to repetitively stimulate newly established associations between bodily movement and acoustic effect.

Research objectives:

  • Measuring the effect of musical agency on motor learning curves.

  • Investigating differences in physiological signatures between motor learning with and without musical agency.

  • Development of new types of music supported rehabilitation and learning technologies.

  • Research with clinical populations testing if the novel musical embodiment technologies for motor learning are transferable to medical rehabilitation.


The research objectives laid out above demand for a variety of research designs and methods:

  • Motor learning curves,

  • Physiological signatures of motor learning (fMRI, PET, PET-fMRI, MEG, EEG)

  • Jymmin’ (exercise training with musical feedback),

  • Spirometry

  • Clinical rehabilitation with patient groups

  • Clinical questionnaires

  • Clinical tests

  • Behavioral experiments

Current Research Projects:

  • Neuroimaging (PET, fMRI) of musically mediated dopaminergic system activity

  • Music enhanced physiotherapy


  • Institute for Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music, University of Ghent

  • Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Leipzig

  • Tagesklinik für Kognitive Neurologie, Universitätsklinik Leipzig

  • Neurologisches Rehabilitationszentrum Leipzig

  • Department of medicine, University of Dresden

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