Learning with music helps boost changes brain structure: study

The use of musical cues to learn a physical task impacts parts of the brain that process sound and control movement, says a new study.

The findings which had been published in the journal Brain & Cognition, might have implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who had lost some degree of movement control, according to experts.

"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," says lead researcher Katie Overy from University of Edinburgh in the UK.

The study involved a small group of volunteers who were divided into two groups. The groups were charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand.

In one group the learning process was accompanied with musical cues, while the other group learned without music. The learning lasted four weeks.

MRI scans revealed that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that linked auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain.

No change was seen in the non-music group.

The interdisciplinary project, involved 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.