“Can listening to music support neurologic recovery?” Reports from a recent Music/Brain Connectivity Study

February 15, 2018 – Presenters: Todd Frazier, Christof Karmonik PhD
Listening to familiar music has recently been reported to be beneficial during recovery from stroke. A better understanding of changes in connectivity and information flow in the brain while listening to music is warranted to further optimize and target this approach through music therapy and music medicine. In this Houston Methodist study, twelve healthy volunteers listened to seven different auditory samples during an fMRI scanning session: a musical piece chosen by the volunteer that evokes a strong emotional response (referred to as “self-selected emotional”), two unfamiliar pieces (Invention #1 by J.S. Bach and Gagaku-Japanese classical opera, referred to as “unfamiliar”), and three spoken language pieces (unfamiliar African click language, an excerpt of emotionally charged language, and an unemotional reading of a news bulletin). Measures for information flow were created and distinct variation in connectivity was found for different auditory samples consistently for all subjects. Largest brain areas were recruited for processing self-selected emotional music and unfamiliar music. Maps of information flow correlated significantly with changes in fMRI blood oxygenation levels. Observed differences in activation and connectivity may help explain previously observed beneficial effects in stroke recovery, as increase oxygenated blood flow to damaged brain areas stimulated by active engagement through music listening may have supported a state more conducive to therapy. This presentation will discuss the background and results of this study, and how the information is currently being applied at Houston Methodist.