Music Modulates Activity of Neurons Important for Movement

Common treatments for Parkinsons' Disorder include pharmacological treatments. However, these treatments often lose efficacy over time. Emerging efforts to use technology such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) have shown promise. Recent studies using DBS provide in-depth information about unique neural responses to music with this population, and how different kinds of music may be used to achieve specific clinical outcomes

Music as Treatment for Spatial Neglect

Selective attention is a kind of gatekeeper of our consciousness that lets in the information we concentrate on and attenuates or even completely filters out the rest. Usually, this process is highly helpful but sometimes the gatekeeper appears to become too selective when the attention system goes awry due to brain injury. This condition is called the spatial neglect syndrome. We explore the use of music in the treatment of spatial neglect.

Music and Sports

Many of us listen to music during exercise: we have a favorite playlist for running or cycling, we put on the headphones at the gym. We instinctively know that somehow music listening helps us during physical exertion. In recent years, research has accumulated on the various effects of music listening during exercise, and has revealed interesting findings on exactly why and how music helps us.

Music-making Supports Cognitive Health During Aging

Music training is associated with a wide range of changes in brain function and structure. Recent studies have shown that an early onset of music training results in more brain changes, indicating that there may be a sensitive period for music training, or an age where the brain is especially responsive. On the other hand, in terms of brain plasticity and positive effects of music training, it is never too late! Any age is the perfect age for starting a musical hobby, and studies show that during aging, music training could be a good way to combat cognitive decline.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Joyce Chen

Dr. Joyce L Chen is an Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto and Scientist at the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, Sunnybrook Research Institute. Dr. Chen's research aims to understand how the brain recovers motor functions after a stroke, and to develop novel interventions that facilitate recovery. 

Dr. Chen is also interested in the use of noninvasive brain stimulation and auditory feedback such as music to improve motor function. In particular, her group is interested in how the brain changes as a function of an intervention, which will give insight into mechanisms of brain plasticity. Dr Chen has also investigated music-making activities and studying the effects of music listening in improvement of motor re-learning and rehabilitation exercises.

During our Sync Session earlier this year at McGill University, we discussed how a mobile platform such as the Sync Project may accelerate research in her lab by allowing researchers like her to test the response of music on larger samples under ecologically valid settings.

It's Time We Talk About Music Therapy

Research on music therapy and the mechanisms behind its effects show that it offers an effective way to complement traditional treatment of even severe conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s, stroke and depression. This post is a short review on the many ways in which music therapists helps patients recover and manage symptoms of a wide variety of disorders.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Jessica Grahn

Dr Jessica Grahn is a top researcher in neuroscience at the Brain and Mind Institute and the Department of Psychology at Western University, in London, Ontario. Dr Grahn's work looks at how humans interpret rhythmic information in music. Her work has led to discoveries about where rhythmic music is processed in the brain and how some people diagnosed with movement disorders such as Parkinson's are still able to "feel the beat" despite impairments in the very areas we know are responsible for detecting beat in music.

We interviewed Dr Grahn during the recent Sync Session workshop at McGill to discuss what we know about why the connection of rhythm to movement is so widely observed, how research has shown the benefit of rhythm in music over other kinds of rhythmic stimuli, and the potential that technology like the Sync Project has for researchers looking to extend the scope and sample size of their research into music as medicine.

Stay tuned for more interviews from leading researchers exploring the intersection of music, medicine and technology in the coming weeks on the Sync Project Blog.

Music and Movement

From wild dance moves to the subtlest tap of the finger, almost all people are able to sync to the rhythm in music. Music triggers movement in us in a way that seems automatic and innate. This special effect of music may be based on the unique connection with brain functions related to movement and auditory processing. Could this tight connection between the two domains be exploited in treatment of motor disabilities?

What we talk about when we talk about music as medicine

The Sync Project’s mission is to develop music as medicine. We are building a data platform that maps music characteristics to real time, objective measurements of physiology from a rapidly growing variety of sensors and devices. The platform will enable discovery and validation of music signatures that are effective for health.  In this post co-founders Marko Ahtisaari and Ketki Karanam survey some of the recent research on music and health that lead us to start the Sync Project.