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Study Shows Learning Tasks with Music Can Change Brain Structure

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 19 Jul 2017
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Image: A new study shows that learning physical tasks while listening to music can change the structure of the brain (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock).
Image: A new study shows that learning physical tasks while listening to music can change the structure of the brain (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock).
Researchers have shown that people who practiced basic movement tasks while listening to music showed increased structural connectivity in white matter pathways in parts of the brain.

The researchers found that those brain regions associated with sound and control movement processing had improved structural connections as a result of the therapy.

The findings were published online in the August 2017 issue of the journal Brain & Cognition by researchers from the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland) and could be used for research into motor rehabilitation of patients with a disability, after a stroke for example.

The study included 30 right-handed volunteers. They were split into two groups and were asked to learn a new physical task involving sequences of finger movements, with their left non-dominant hand. One group learned the task without music, while the second group learned it with musical cues. The researchers found that both groups learned the sequences equally well after 4 weeks of practice.

The researchers then used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to scan the volunteers’ brains. The scans showed that there was a significant increase in white-matter connectivity in the group working with music as opposed to the group working without music that showed no change.

Research team leader Dr. Katie Overy, 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."

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