Volume III, Issue 2, Fall 1996

Table of Contents

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Sing, Sing, Sing

Music and Its Memories

Matters of Opinion
Purists and Utilitarians

Briefly Noted
Brain Coherence, Musicianship and Gender
Music Improves Reasoning in Preschool Children

Recent Publications of Special Interest

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Sing, Sing, Sing!
Copyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinberger
and the Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.

Research indicates that singing has a strong biological basis, appears as song babbling in infants, undergoes regular developmental stages in young children and can facilitate cognitive abilities.

Birds do! Bugs do it! Even gibbons in the trees do it! Let's do it. Let's .... sing, sing, sing!

Many readers will recognize this as a paraphrase of a popular song of long ago -- Let's Fall In Love". While sex may be almost universal in the Animal Kingdom (don't forget the creatures that don't need a partner to reproduce), love as an almost universal is not so clear. In fact, singing might be more widespread than love.

However, many would disagree. This point of view dismisses grasshopper song as just so much noise, holds that whale singing isn't really all that musical and even regards birdsong as just pleasant twittering. Dismissal of animal song as not being "genuine singing" is typically homocentric. One would have thought the fact that humans are not the center of the Universe, nor our Milky Way galaxy, not our Solar System, not even this "third rock from the sun" should bring at least a moment's pause, if not a bit of humble reflection. The claim that only humans really sing at least raises the question of the definition of singing. Without getting deeply into this issue, we might at least note that research has detailed the musical aspects of the rhythmic/melodic vocalizations of countless species.

Analysis of the animal vocalizations termed "singing" amply attests to their complexity. For, example birdsong is intricate in content and pattern.(1) And interestingly, birdsong is believed by many scientists to provide "... the most adequate model for studying the learning processes of human language." Paralleling the case of human language, songbirds also must hear vocalizations to learn to sing and do so within a critical period of development in order to attain competency. Additionally, birdsong is used to communicate quite specific information to other birds of the same species. Further, different discrete groups of brain cells in songbirds are responsible for different aspects of learning to sing and producing song, as appears to be the case in humans.(2) So there are many commonalties between birdsong and human language.

A second and last example is that of the vocalizations of our primate cousin, the gibbon. These are of sufficient complexity to warrant the term "song" without any great stretch of either the imagination or the language. Thus, the songs of male gibbons are organized "... within a framework of rules that define regular patterns in the placement and order of note types." When the meaning of such songs was determined behaviorally, it was discovered that the "... proper sequential organization of notes is required to encode the meaning of the song...".(3) Don't our songs have similar, if not identical, characteristics?

Neither example is intended to suggest that human song evolved directly from either songbirds or gibbons; neither of these taxa constitute our direct ancestors. Rather, such findings suggest that human singing is not unique and that it may be biologically based, perhaps in the sense that the hominid capacity for song may have had some selective advantage in the passing on of one's genes. This possibility aside, some workers view song as a stage in the evolution of language. Thus, Bruce Richman, writing in the journal Contemporary Anthropology, notes that many researchers categorize human vocalization into two opposed systems, expressive sounds (e.g., sighing, crying, laughing) and speech. Richman believes that a third type of vocalization lies between them -- singing. "Singing and speech seem very different; ... singing is more expressive of emotions than speech." He further holds that the social functions of singing provide something that speaking does not do. "... group singing gives ... a strong, direct feeling of social cohesion and solidarity." Finally, he proposes that singing "... served as an evolutionary transitional state between primate-like vocalizations and speech.(4)

What about human song, particularly in infants and children? The appearance and development of song in infants and children has been studied in some detail. (For very informative broad reviews of musical development see Shuter-Dyson and Gabriel, 1981 and Hargreaves, 1986).(5) During the first year of life, song babbling is evident(6) and recognizable spontaneous singing can be observed as early as six months of age.(7) Ries reported that spontaneous singing at seven months of age was quite distinctive.(8) Researchers have identified a developmental sequence. Early singing consists largely of melodic-rhythmic patterns of contour (pattern of higher and lower notes), without accuracy of pitch. Dowling reports that at approximately two years of age, songs usually consist of the repetition of a single brief melodic phrase, e.g., "Hoppy-hoppy run 'round the road". Complexity increases with age with the addition of more phrases. Recognition of the correct pitch may develop as early as the third year, although singing the correct pitch is usually not present for several years.(9)

Welch has provided a good review of the development of child song, salient features of which are quoted here.(10) After babbling, in which infants often play with "... glissandi and groups of musical pitches and phrases in a repetitive fashion ... words and fragments of song text ... become the focus of attention, followed by certain rhythmic features and, subsequently, the pitch components." The basic learning hierarchy appears to be: "Words -> Rhythm -> Pitch" This develops further: "Pitch Contour -> Individual Phrase Stability -> Overall Key Stability". "By the age of five to six years, young children's singing may have acquired many of the features of the significant adult models."

That key features of adult song are present so early does not imply that songs of young childhood are miniature adult songs. Veldhuis studied the spontaneous singing of four year olds in a free-choice activity period in preschool. She reported that the songs had very clear organizational patterns, unlike adult patterns; they generally had a restricted range of pitch intervals but with distinct brief melodies. Veldhuis further explored the situations in which singing occurred. She found that the children's singing was stimulated by objects, such as musical instruments, and by environmental sounds. Singing was found to often spread through "vocal contagion". Importantly, Veldhuis noted that singing had clear social functions (e.g., communication and cooperation) at this age.(11)

Other detailed observations of naturalistic behavior have documented the spontaneity of singing and other music making in young children. For example, Miller studied three to five year olds in a preschool setting and found that they freely engage in exploring and manipulating melodic and nonmelodic instruments, create songs and imitate rhythms by bodily movements. The children chant and sing to recorded music, without specific instruction or encouragement.(12)

In addition to the systematic description of childsong, a few researchers have also asked whether singing in children has other effects. Positive findings have been reported. For example, ten weeks of group musical activities including singing are reported to increase scores on tests of vocabulary and language in two to five year old developmentally delayed children.(13)

Kalmar reported several positive effects of singing in normal children in a long term study.(14) She examined the effects of the Kodaly method of singing instruction (involving the accompaniment of music with rhythmic movements and the verbal or physical representation of songs) on several measures. Three year olds were assigned either to the experimental group, which received twice-weekly special singing lessons over a three year period, or to the control group, which attended only regular nursery school programs. The experimental group showed greater improvement than the control group on measures of motor development (particularly coordination), abstract conceptual thinking, play improvisation, originality, and verbal abilities. There were no differences in drawing ability or overall IQ between the two groups. The findings both document the potential benefits of singing education on cognitive and motor development and also show that measurable developmental benefits need not involved IQ scores. While these findings are quite provocative, causal attribution to singing per se would require a control group that also received enriched experience of a different type. One would hope for follow-up studies.

In summary, while no one would claim that singing in animals is the same as singing in humans, nonetheless animal song has many of the characteristics of human song. And it may be that song is related to the evolution of speech. Observations of the spontaneous behavior of infants and children show that singing is present early in life, exhibits regular developmental stages and serves bio-social roles. Thus, singing may be a biological imperative with both individual and group functions. Quite apart from issues of its biological bases, singing appears capable of promoting several cognitive processes and even motor coordination. But whether or not the benefits prove to be caused exclusively by singing instruction, most parents and teachers would be pleased to have any means of facilitating the mental and physical development of infants and young children. Thus, Kalmar's findings should not be ignored. Additional focused research and application are certainly warranted.

It is fascinating and particularly instructive that infants and children readily make use of the one musical instrument with which they come "equipped", their voices. Perhaps parents, other caregivers and indeed all adults should listen to them more closely, encouraging singing as much as we encourage language. Then the apparently natural activity and desire of children to sing could be used for their own benefit, both directly musical and indirectly to other aspects of their own development. A fundamental precept is that society has a basic responsibility to help each individual develop to her or his fullest capacity. Singing seems to be a means to promote both musical competence and full development , which clearly are compatible goals.

-- N. M. Weinberger

(1) Konishi M. (1994). Pattern generation in birdsong. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 4, pgs. 827-31.

(2) Saito N; Maekawa M. (1993). Birdsong: the interface with human language. Brain and Development, 15, pgs. 31-39.

(3) Mitani, John C.; Marler, Peter. (1989). A phonological analysis of male gibbon singing behavior. Behaviour, 109, pgs. 20-45.

(4) Richman, Bruce. (1993). On the evolution of speech: signing as the middle term. Current Anthro., 34, pgs. 721-722.

(5) Shuter-Dyson, R. and Gabriel, C. (1981). The Psychology of Musical Ability, (2nd ed.)., London:Methuen.

Hargreaves, D.J. (1986). The Developmental Psychology of Music . Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

(6) Moog, H. (1976).The Musical Experience of the Pre-School Child. (trans. C. Clarke). London: Schott.

(7) Ostwald, P. (1973). Musical behavior in early childhood. Devel. Med. & Child Neurol., 15, pgs. 367-375.

(8) Ries, N.L. (1987). An analysis of the characteristics of infant-child singing expressions: replication report., Canad. J. Res. Mus. Ed., 29, pgs. 5-20.

(9) Dowling, W. J. (1988).Tonal structure and children's early learning of music, In; Sloboda, J. A. (ed.), Generative Processes in Music . Oxford: Clarendon Press, pgs. 113-128.

(10) Welch, G. F. (1994). The assessment of singing., Psychol. of Music, 22, pgs. 3-19.

(11) Veldhuis, H. A. (1984). Spontaneous songs of preschool children. Arts in Psychotherapy, 11 pgs. 15-24.

(12) Miller, L.B. (1989). Children's Musical Behaviors in the Natural Environment, In: Peery, J. C., et al (eds.), Music and Child Development, New York: Springer-Verlag, pgs. 206-224.

(13) Hoskins, C. (1988). Use of music to increase verbal response and improve expressive language abilities of preschool language delayed children., J. Mus. Ther., 25, pgs. 73-84.

(14) Kalmar, M. (1982). The effects of music education based on Kodaly's directives in nursery school children: From a psychologist's point of view. Psychol. Music., Spec. Issue, pgs. 63-68.

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Music and Its Memories
Copyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinberger
and the Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.

Music relies on memory. What is the nature of this memory? Researchers in both cognitive science and behavioral neuroscience are actively engaged in a major debate about memory. They are particularly concerned with the growing multiplicity of forms of memory. How many are there? How do they differ from each other? Two of the generally accepted types are "declarative" and "procedural" memory. In a moment, we will consider their relevance for music. But first, some definitions are needed.

"Declarative" refers to memories that can be consciously recalled and stated. The contents of declarative memory seem to be largely life episodes, i.e., recall of a specific occasion, like your first date, what you had for dinner yesterday, etc. or facts, e.g. the capital of France. Declarative memories are acquired rapidly; generally, they don't require much repetition of the experience to become fairly strong. In fact, highly emotional events need be experienced only once to leave a life-time declarative memory. Each reader can probably think of such a personal experience.

"Procedural" refers to things learned that are not accessible to this type of recall or report. Such memories do not have as their contents specific experiences but rather things learned and stored that are more implicit than explicit. Examples are how to ride a bike, how to recognize a letter of the alphabet, etc. Put another way, motor and perceptual skills are classified as procedural memories. This type of memory requires repetition, takes a long time to learn well and becomes part of one's capabilities. Information in the procedural memory system becomes automatic, that is it is used to process sensory information and make highly practiced movements unconsciously and without distracting us from attending to other things.

This distinction is one which has a great deal of evidence to back it. Whether or not these terms and the forms of memory they purportedly encapsulate ultimately stand the test of time, it is clear that procedural and declarative memory are relatively independent. For example, damage to the medial temporal lobe of the brain can prevent new declarative memories from being formed but leave procedural memories intact. Thus, such a patient can fail to recognize the doctors he sees everyday for years. At the same time, he can learn perceptual and motor skills (e.g., mirror drawing) at a normal rate over days of practice, while denying that he has ever seen or done the task before!(1)

What does this have to do with music? W. Jay Dowling, a prolific and highly respected music researcher believes this distinction has important consequences for music and this essay attempts to summarize some of his findings and views.(2)

In music education, learning the fact that the key of G has one sharp engages the declarative memory system. In contrast, learning to play the G scale well involves procedural memory. Practicing is largely a sensory-motor skill and merely thinking about learning to play can't substitute for the real thing. So both forms of memory are engaged in music instruction. However, Dowling points out that there is a more subtle, yet vital, aspect of procedural memory in music than practicing an instrument. He refers to the implicit mental schema that people acquire merely by being exposed to Western tonal music. Thus, hearing such music actually programs the brain to have a tonal framework within which musical sounds are automatically referred and processed.

Dowling gives an example. "Hearing the dominant chord in a particular context sets up a readiness to process the tonic chord more efficiently when it occurs. ... knowledge is represented implicitly rather than explicitly. The listener does not say to himself "Oh, there is a dominant and now I bet there will be a tonic. The listener's experience is one of hearing a dominant chord and then hearing a tonic as its natural resolution. ... The implicit knowledge is stored as procedures for handling incoming patterns of stimulation. "

One of Dowling's experiments is illustrative. Both naive and musically educated subjects heard melodies which included notes (pitches) that "fall into the cracks in between the standard notes on a piano keyboard". Dowling devised an intricate way of forcing subjects to make judgments before they had a chance to store the melody and think about it; that is, he forced them to rely on their procedural memory store. Dowling found that the mistuned notes were automatically assimilated to the nearest semitone in the regular scale. Most interestingly, there was no difference between naive subjects and those with musical training. Thus, mere exposure to Western tonal music was sufficient to induce the brain to develop a standard tonal schema, which it then uses to automatically classify pitches. This is a matter of procedural learning and memory. By the way, the effects were not due to "hard-wired" brain circuits present at birth because tonal processing is culturally bound; exposure to another tonal system would produce a schema for that system.

On the basis of these types of findings and general considerations, Dowling argues that too much of education (all education not merely music education) is based on declarative learning in which facts are passed on by lectures. He argues for specific emphasis on procedural learning, suggesting greately increased experience with music itself. He goes so far to suggest that "...if instead of talking to children, teachers got them singing i t would help a lot and would produce active involvement. Also, it is fun. It is more fun to sing than to listen to someone lecture."

Implicit in this view is that we tend to under-emphasize the potential of procedural learning, perhaps because we personally aren't generally conscious of it. By specifically setting up situations in which students increase their procedural store of information, one can take advantage of the brain's penchant for automatically making sense out of streams of sensory experience. In other words, hearing and producing music by singing should produce a great deal of procedural learning, building additional and more complex schemas to form a broader and deeper basis for the automatic processing and interpretation of more complex aspects of sensory experience. That is, enhancing learning by performance.

In Dowling's words, "It is via the automatic procedures we develop that in a very fundamental way we perceive and understand the world. With music, this can be done quite effectively, I think, by engaging all students actively in perhaps simply having them sing rather than talk about music.

-- N. M. Weinberger

(1) There are many accounts of this and similar findings on brain and memory. For a highly readable book, now slightly outdated but still very informative, see Squire, L. (1987). Memory and Brain,. New York: Oxford University Press.

(2) Dowling, W. J. (1993). Procedural and Declarative Knowledge in Music Cognition and Education, in Tighe, T. J. and Dowling, W. J. (eds.), Psychology and Music: The Understanding of Melody and Rhythm, Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pgs. 5-18.

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Matters of Opinion
Copyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinberger
and the Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.

Purists and Utilitarians

The following opinions about music. are based on the reports of scientific studies. This does not mean that the opinions of the editor carry the same importance as the results of such studies themselves. They are simply opinions, intended to provoke thought and sometimes perhaps even argument, but ultimately to energize and enlarge action on music

Recently, I was astonished to learn that many music educators are either disinterested in or even quite negative about certain areas of music research. In particular, some leading figures disdain research on the relationships between music and other aspects of human behavior. For example, they appear to be quite unhappy about studies that investigate the potential beneficial effects of music education on child development and cognition. [See for example "Music and Cognitive Achievement in Children", MRN, Fall 1994, I (2) and "The Nonmusical Outcomes of Music Education", MRN, Fall 1995, II (2)]. Why should anyone object to studies which support the hypothesis that music education improves listening skills, reading ability, reasoning, etc.?

The reason given to me is that such findings can be used to promote music education! This seems bizarre, given that the promotion of music education is a goal of music educators. As the author of the articles listed above, I clearly am not opposed to such research; far from it, I welcome such studies.

But, this particular anti-research attitude is, I think, quite logical within a given frame of reference. As I understand it, the argument goes something like this.

"Music should be studied for its own sake, not because of its effects on other aspects of education. Studies that seek such effects undermine this foundational premise. They reduce music education to an adjunct of non-arts subjects that are alleged to be more important. Music and arts education thus become a means to an end rather than an end in themselves. It is bad enough that music and arts education are under continual attack, reduced support and the like. But rendering music as a sort of skill that is valued for its possible facilitation of mathematics is really too much!"

No doubt an advocate of this position could write a better explanation but I hope that I have captured the essential point. Since I am going to argue against this position, I would like to think that I am not setting up a straw argument just so I can easily knock it down.

For shorthand, I will refer to the anti-research position as the "Musical Purist Position", while advocates of "music effects" research will be "Music Utilitarians". These are meant as descriptive, not pejorative, labels. An imaginary dialogue between the groups might go something like this.

MP: We all need to educate relevant decision-makers (school boards, etc.) about the importance of music education as a fundamental component of education. [The strongest possible reasons for music education are then provided.]

MU: We agree with everything you have said.

MP: Music budgets get cut but sports budgets survive the axe. That's crazy! It is certainly not in the best interests of the students.

MU: We agree completely.

MP: So, if you agree with us, why do you MUs insist on promoting activities that hurt music education?

MU: We agree that music should be studied because of its intrinsic merit. We disagree with the premise that "effect" studies are bad for music education. We believe that music should not be excluded from research on any aspects of behavior it touches. In short, music is a sufficiently important subject to command the attention and efforts of both arts workers and science workers.

MP: But you are using the arts as stepping stones to the sciences. The arts are of at least equal importance in education.

MU: Yes, and so are the humanities. If music education is found to be beneficial for learning and intellectual development in the other arts and in the humanities, would you object to such research? If humanities education is found to facilitate music education, would that be bad? Not nearly enough is presently known about the development, nature and employment of cognition and intellectual functions in general, much less their role in any given discipline, to limit research.

MP: You have completely convinced us of the superiority of your position and we now agree with you.

That last imaginary remark was just wishful thinking by us MUs. Let's try another response of the MP faction to conclude this imaginary conversation.

MP: We are reasonable and rational people and are always ready and willing to listen to other perspectives. Therefore, we invite you MUs to begin a serious and extended dialogue with us MPs. Together, we should find ways to set and achieve common goals.

Yes, I like that one better. So, let's begin...

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Briefly Noted
Copyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinberger
and the Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.

Brain Coherence, Musicianship and Gender Everyone has brain waves (the electroencephalogram or simply EEG), which reflect the massed activity of synaptic potentials in countless brain cells. . Does the amount of EEG similarity or "coherence" among different regions of the brain reflect differences in experience or training? To approach this question, Johnson, Petsche, Richter, von Stein and Filz (Music Perception,, 1996, 13, 563-582) analyzed the degree of EEG coherence during spontaneous waking periods that were presumably devoid of any particular mental activity. They studied the relationships of coherence both to gender and degree of musical training. Females had higher coherence than males. The authors conclude that the gender differences are in accord with anatomical studies showing that females have more interhemispheric connections than males. Of particular interest for music, subjects with music training exhibited significantly more EEG coherence within and between the hemispheres than matched controls without such training. The authors suggest that greater coherence in musicians "...may reflect a specialized organization of brain activity in subjects with music training for enabling the experiences of ordered acoustic patterns. ... music training may influence the cortical connectivity that is observable even in the spontaneous EEG." That is, the authors hypothesize that musical training increases the number of functional interconnections in the brain.

Music Improves Reasoning in Preschool Children The hypothesis that music training significantly and specifically enhances spatial-temporal reasoning in young children has recently found strong support. Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb (Neurological Research, 1996, in press) studied 78 children (3-4 years old) divided into three groups. Thirty four children received private piano keyboard lessons, 20 received equally frequent private computer lessons and 24 served as other controls, receiving either singing lessons (n=10) or no special lessons (n=14) for six months. Four standard, age calibrated, spatial reasoning tests were given before and after training; one test measured spatial-temporal reasoning and three tests assessed spatial recognition. Post-treatment test scores showed a significant improvement on the spatial-temporal test only for the keyboard group. No group improved significantly on the spatial recognition tests. That the computer group showed no effect provides a control for extra attention, involvement, etc. The authors suggest that the improvement in spatial reasoning may be related to the linear spatial layout of the keyboard. They propose that keyboard training may enhance the learning of standard subjects, such as mathematics and science, in which spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly important.

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Recent Publications of Special Interest


Rosenbaum, J.L. and Prinsky, L. (1991). The presumption of influence: Recent responses to popular music subcultures. Crime & Delinquency, 37:528-535.

           Abstract: Studies the juvenile justice system in California within a labeling theory context and outlines approaches currently taken in response to teenagers who are part of the punk and heavy metal subculture. 12 hospitals that have adolescent care programs responded to a hypothetical situation in which the parents' main problem with their child was music the child listened to, clothes the child wore, and posters on the child's bedroom wall. 83% of the facilities indicated that the youth needed hospitalization. Labeling theory suggests that the process of labeling minors as juvenile delinquents or mentally ill because of their dress and tastes in music may have the effect of pushing them into a deviant role. Without the negative label, the offending adolescent might simply grow up.

Music Perception, Cognition and Behavior

Bigand, E., Parncutt, R. and Lerdahl, F. (1996). Perception of musical tension in short chord sequences: the influence of harmonic function, sensory dissonance, horizontal motion, and musical training. Perception and Psychophysics, 58:124-141.

           Abstract: This study investigates the effect of four variables (tonal hierarchies, sensory chordal consonance, horizontal motion, and musical training) on perceived musical tension. Participants were asked to evaluate the tension created by a chord X in sequences of three chords [C major-->X-->C major] in a C major context key. The X chords could be major or minor triads major-minor seventh, or minor seventh chords built on the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. The data were compared with Krumhansl's (1990) harmonic hierarchy and with predictions of Lerdahl's (1988) cognitive theory, Hutchinson and Knopoff's (1978) and Parncutt's (1989) sensory-psychoacoustical theories, and the model of horizontal motion defined in the paper. As a main outcome, it appears that judgments of tension arose from a convergence of several cognitive and psychoacoustics influences, whose relative importance varies, depending on musical training.

Repp, B. H. (1996). The dynamics of expressive piano performance: Schumann's "Traumerei" revisited. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 100:641-50.

           Abstract: Ten graduate student pianists were recorded playing Robert Schumann's "Traumerei" three times on a Yamaha Disclavier. Their expressive dynamics were analyzed at the level of hammer (MIDI) velocities. Individual dynamic profiles were similar across repeated performances, more so for the right hand (soprano and alto voices) than for the left hand (tenor and bass voices). As expected, the soprano voice, which usually had the principal melody, was played with greater force than the other voices, which gained prominence only when they carried temporarily important melodic fragments. Independent of this voice differentiation, there was a tendency for velocity to increase with pitch, at least in the soprano and alto voices. While there was an overall tendency for velocities to increase with local tempo, there were salient local departures from this coupling. Individual differences in expressive dynamics were not striking and were only weakly related to individual differences in expressive timing.


Schlaug, G., Jancke, L., Huang, Y., Staiger, J.F. and Steinmetz, H. (1995). Increased corpus callosum size in musicians. Neuropsychologia ,33:1047-55.

           Abstract: Using in-vivo magnetic resonance morphometry it was investigated whether the midsagittal area of the corpus callosum (CC) would differ between 30 professional musicians and 30 age-, sex- and handedness-matched controls. Our analyses revealed that the anterior half of the CC was significantly larger in musicians. This difference was due to the larger anterior CC in the subgroup of musicians who had begun musical training before the age of 7. Since anatomic studies have provided evidence for a positive correlation between midsagittal callosal size and the number of fibers crossing through the CC, these data indicate a difference in interhemispheric communication and possibly in hemispheric (a) symmetry of sensorimotor areas. Our results are also compatible with plastic changes of components of the CC during a maturation period within the first decade of human life, similar to those observed in animal studies.


Thaut, M.H., McIntosh, G.C., Rice, R.R., Miller, R.A., Rathbun, J. and Brault, J.M. (1996). Rhythmic auditory stimulation in gait training for Parkinson's disease patients. Movement Disorders,, 11:193-200.

           Abstract: Rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) was used as a pacemaker during a 3-week home-based gait-training program for Parkinson's disease (PD) patients (n = 15). Electromyogram (EMG) patterns and stride parameters were assessed before and after the test without RAS to evaluate changes in gait patterns. Data were compared with those of two control groups (n = 11), who either did not participate in any gait training or who participated in an internally self-paced training program. RAS consisted of audiotapes with metronome-pulse patterns embedded into the on/off beat structure of rhythmically accentuated instrumental music. Patients who trained with RAS significantly (p < 0.05) improved their gait velocity by 25%, stride length by 12%, and step cadence by 10% more than self-paced subjects who improved their velocity by 7% and no-training subjects whose velocity decreased by 7%. In the RAS-group, timing of EMG patterns changed significantly (p < 0.05) in the anterior tibialis and vastus lateralis muscles. Evidence for rhythmic entrainment of gait patterns was shown by the ability of the RAS group to reproduce the speed of the last training tape within a 2% margin of error without RAS.


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