London,Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly boosts brain wiring between regions that process sound and control movement, according to a study that may pave the way for novel therapies to restore motion in stroke patients.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK recruited 30 right-handed volunteers, who were divided into two groups.
They were asked to learn a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the 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 said.
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.
The findings focus on white matter pathways – the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.
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 study suggests that music makes a key difference. We have long known that music encourages people to move,” said Katie Overy
“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,” Overy said.
The results were published in the journal Brain and Cognition.