Music in the recovering brain

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Listening to music involves a widely distributed bilateral network of brain regions that controls many auditory perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and motor functions. Exposure to music can also temporarily improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive performance as well as promote neural plasticity. However, very little is currently known about the relationship between music perception and auditory and cognitive processes or about the potential therapeutic effects of listening to music after neural damage. This thesis explores the interplay of auditory, cognitive, and emotional factors related to music processing after a middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke. In the acute recovery phase, 60 MCA stroke patients were randomly assigned to a music listening group, an audio book listening group, or a control group. All patients underwent neuropsychological assessments, magnetoencephalography (MEG) measurements, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans repeatedly during a six-month post-stroke period. The results revealed that amusia, a deficit of music perception, is a common and persistent deficit after a stroke, especially if the stroke affects the frontal and temporal brain areas in the right hemisphere. Amusia is clearly associated with deficits in both auditory encoding, as indicated by the magnetic mismatch negativity (MMNm) response, and domain-general cognitive processes, such as attention, working memory, and executive functions. Furthermore, both music and audio book listening increased the MMNm, whereas only music listening improved the recovery of verbal memory and focused attention as well as prevented a depressed and confused mood during the first post-stroke months. These findings indicate a close link between musical, auditory, and cognitive processes in the brain. Importantly, they also encourage the use of listening to music as a rehabilitative leisure activity after a stroke and suggest that the auditory environment can induce long-term plastic changes in the recovering brain.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-10-6831-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-6832-4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2011
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology
  • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
  • 3112 Neurosciences
  • 6131 Theatre, dance, music, other performing arts

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