Sensorimotor integration in piano performance

A longitudinal DC-EEG study was conducted to investigate when and how the neuronal basis of audio-motor integration is established. We observed the changes in cortical activation patterns induced by short term (20 minutes) and long term (5 weeks) piano learning in novices (Bangert & Altenmüller, 2003). DC-EEG potentials were recorded in 17 subjects with no experience of piano playing who had to perform three sets of tasks on a computer-piano that allowed selective examination of auditory and motor aspects of performing: (1) A set of 60 purely auditory (listening to short monophonic piano sequences) and 60 right-hand motor tasks (arbitrary finger tapping on a silent piano keyboard); (2) a computer-controlled training phase (re-playing of short acoustically presented right-hand melodic sequences with instant auditory feedback) which aimed at audio-motor binding; (3) another set similar to (1). Furthermore, the novices worked with an adaptive training software (as designed for part (2) of the experiment) over a period of 5 weeks. While the 'map' group was allowed to learn the standard piano key-to-pitch map, for the 'no-map' group the keyboard was manipulated and random assignment of keys to tones was presented. Auditory-sensorimotor EEG co-activity occurred within only 20 minutes. The effect was enhanced after 5-week training, contributing elements of both perception and action to the mental representation of the instrument. The 'map' group demonstrated significant additional activity of right anterior regions. We concluded that audio-motor co-representation was already established during the very first minutes of piano training, and it was consolidated during subsequent weeks of practicing. This coactivation may provide the basis of any virtuosity that can be achieved later on. The anterior right region that appeared active in both kinds of probe tasks seems to have properties of a supramodal neural network suitable for translating sound into motion, i.e., it may provide musicians with an interface map.



Last modified: 2015-12-09

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