Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Music and Neuroimaging Lab

The Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard Medical School

Mission Statement

The human brain has the remarkable ability to adapt in response to changes in the environment over the course of a lifetime. This is the mechanism for learning, growth, and normal development. Similar changes or adaptations can also occur in response to focal brain injuries, e.g., partially-adapted neighboring brain regions or functionally-related brain systems can either substitute for some of the lost function or develop alternative strategies to overcome a disability.

Through ongoing research, the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory’s mission is to:


The Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory is currently involved in a variety of neurology/neuroscience research projects, ranging from studies examining the effects of instrumental music training on children’s brain and cognitive development to studies examining the neural correlates of absolute pitch, congenital and acquired amusia, neural effects of auditory and motor learning, neural correlates of singing and speaking in normal subjects as well as aphasic patients, to studies examining the effects of therapies that could facilitate the recovery from aphasia and sensorimotor deficits after a stroke. We have also recently begun to examine the effects of a non-invasive, electrical stimulation technique (TDCS - transcranial direct current stimulation) on blocking or enhancing regional brain activity.

Our Main Research Interests

1. The Brain that Makes Music or the Musical Brain. We are studying the cerebral correlates of musical abilities and the functional/structural cerebral adaptations of music training using musicians as a model. This work is supported by the NSF and the International Foundation for Music Research (IFMR). For a sample of recent papers please see Publications (Schlaug et al., 1995a,b; Amunts et al., 1997; Jaencke et al., 1997; Schlaug, 2001; Keenan et al., 2001; Muente et al., 2002; Lee et al., 2003; Hutchinson et al., 2003; Gaser et al., 2003).

2. The Effects of Music Training on Cognitive and Brain Development in Children. In longitudinal and cross-sectional studies we are examining the effects of learning to play a musical instrument as well as the effects of enriched music instruction in school on various behavioral and cognitive measures as well as brain development. This work is supported by NSF, the International Foundation for Music Research, and the Grammy Foundation.

3. Neural Correlates of Absolute Pitch. We are examining the structural and functional brain markers of this unique ability. We are also interested in the incidence of this ability in special populations and the familial occurrence of absolute pitch. For a sample of recent papers see Publications (Schlaug et al., 1995; Keenan et al., 2001; Schlaug, 2003).

4. Behavioral and Neural Effects of Auditory Learning. We are examining the behavioral and brain effects of acquiring auditory skills in adults, mainly in those without any musical training.

5. Pathophysiology of Acute Human Stroke. We are using new magnetic resonance imaging methods such as perfusion and diffusion weighted imaging to select patients for treatment, to determine the benefit/risk ratios of experimental treatment approaches, and to assess tissue outcome after an intervention is done. This work is supported by the NIH and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. For a sample of recent papers please see Publications (Schlaug et al., 1997, 1999; Fink et al., 2002a,b; Selim et al., 2002; Linfante et al., 2002).

6. Determinants and Facilitators of Stroke Recovery. W are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to study stroke recovery. This research is supported by the Dana Foundation and the NIH. For a sample of relevant papers please see Publications (Hutchinson et al., 2002; Kobayashi et al., 2002; Mottaghy et al., 2002).

7. Singing and Speaking in Normal Subjects and in Patients with Aphasia. We are examining the sharing of neural substrates when subjects sing and speak. This work will be used the examine the neural correlates of innovative therapies in aphasia rehabilitation.