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1.  Sensorimotor Plasticity after Music-Supported Therapy in Chronic Stroke Patients Revealed by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61883.
Background
Several recently developed therapies targeting motor disabilities in stroke sufferers have shown to be more effective than standard neurorehabilitation approaches. In this context, several basic studies demonstrated that music training produces rapid neuroplastic changes in motor-related brain areas. Music-supported therapy has been recently developed as a new motor rehabilitation intervention.
Methods and Results
In order to explore the plasticity effects of music-supported therapy, this therapeutic intervention was applied to twenty chronic stroke patients. Before and after the music-supported therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied for the assessment of excitability changes in the motor cortex and a 3D movement analyzer was used for the assessment of motor performance parameters such as velocity, acceleration and smoothness in a set of diadochokinetic movement tasks. Our results suggest that the music-supported therapy produces changes in cortical plasticity leading the improvement of the subjects' motor performance.
Conclusion
Our findings represent the first evidence of the neurophysiological changes induced by this therapy in chronic stroke patients, and their link with the amelioration of motor performance. Further studies are needed to confirm our observations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061883
PMCID: PMC3629163  PMID: 23613966
2.  Plasticity in the sensorimotor cortex induced by Music-supported therapy in stroke patients: a TMS study 
Playing a musical instrument demands the engagement of different neural systems. Recent studies about the musician's brain and musical training highlight that this activity requires the close interaction between motor and somatosensory systems. Moreover, neuroplastic changes have been reported in motor-related areas after short and long-term musical training. Because of its capacity to promote neuroplastic changes, music has been used in the context of stroke neurorehabilitation. The majority of patients suffering from a stroke have motor impairments, preventing them to live independently. Thus, there is an increasing demand for effective restorative interventions for neurological deficits. Music-supported Therapy (MST) has been recently developed to restore motor deficits. We report data of a selected sample of stroke patients who have been enrolled in a MST program (1 month intense music learning). Prior to and after the therapy, patients were evaluated with different behavioral motor tests. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was applied to evaluate changes in the sensorimotor representations underlying the motor gains observed. Several parameters of excitability of the motor cortex were assessed as well as the cortical somatotopic representation of a muscle in the affected hand. Our results revealed that participants obtained significant motor improvements in the paretic hand and those changes were accompanied by changes in the excitability of the motor cortex. Thus, MST leads to neuroplastic changes in the motor cortex of stroke patients which may explain its efficacy.
doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00494
PMCID: PMC3759754  PMID: 24027507
stroke; music-supported therapy; music; plasticity; transcranial magnetic stimulation
3.  Prognostic value of cortically induced motor evoked activity by TMS in chronic stroke: Caveats from a revealing single clinical case 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:35.
Background
We report the case of a chronic stroke patient (62 months after injury) showing total absence of motor activity evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of spared regions of the left motor cortex, but near-to-complete recovery of motor abilities in the affected hand.
Case presentation
Multimodal investigations included detailed TMS based motor mapping, motor evoked potentials (MEP), and Cortical Silent period (CSP) as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of motor activity, MRI based lesion analysis and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) Tractography of corticospinal tract (CST). Anatomical analysis revealed a left hemisphere subinsular lesion interrupting the descending left CST at the level of the internal capsule. The absence of MEPs after intense TMS pulses to the ipsilesional M1, and the reversible suppression of ongoing electromyographic (EMG) activity (indexed by CSP) demonstrate a weak modulation of subcortical systems by the ipsilesional left frontal cortex, but an inability to induce efficient descending volleys from those cortical locations to right hand and forearm muscles. Functional MRI recordings under grasping and finger tapping patterns involving the affected hand showed slight signs of subcortical recruitment, as compared to the unaffected hand and hemisphere, as well as the expected cortical activations.
Conclusions
The potential sources of motor voluntary activity for the affected hand in absence of MEPs are discussed. We conclude that multimodal analysis may contribute to a more accurate prognosis of stroke patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-35
PMCID: PMC3411427  PMID: 22682434
4.  Neurophysiological mechanisms involved in language learning in adults 
Little is known about the brain mechanisms involved in word learning during infancy and in second language acquisition and about the way these new words become stable representations that sustain language processing. In several studies we have adopted the human simulation perspective, studying the effects of brain-lesions and combining different neuroimaging techniques such as event-related potentials and functional magnetic resonance imaging in order to examine the language learning (LL) process. In the present article, we review this evidence focusing on how different brain signatures relate to (i) the extraction of words from speech, (ii) the discovery of their embedded grammatical structure, and (iii) how meaning derived from verbal contexts can inform us about the cognitive mechanisms underlying the learning process. We compile these findings and frame them into an integrative neurophysiological model that tries to delineate the major neural networks that might be involved in the initial stages of LL. Finally, we propose that LL simulations can help us to understand natural language processing and how the recovery from language disorders in infants and adults can be accomplished.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0130
PMCID: PMC2846313  PMID: 19933142
language learning; speech segmentation; contextual learning; functional connectivity; ERPs; fMRI
5.  Beneficial effects of word final stress in segmenting a new language: evidence from ERPs 
BMC Neuroscience  2008;9:23.
Background
How do listeners manage to recognize words in an unfamiliar language? The physical continuity of the signal, in which real silent pauses between words are lacking, makes it a difficult task. However, there are multiple cues that can be exploited to localize word boundaries and to segment the acoustic signal. In the present study, word-stress was manipulated with statistical information and placed in different syllables within trisyllabic nonsense words to explore the result of the combination of the cues in an online word segmentation task.
Results
The behavioral results showed that words were segmented better when stress was placed on the final syllables than when it was placed on the middle or first syllable. The electrophysiological results showed an increase in the amplitude of the P2 component, which seemed to be sensitive to word-stress and its location within words.
Conclusion
The results demonstrated that listeners can integrate specific prosodic and distributional cues when segmenting speech. An ERP component related to word-stress cues was identified: stressed syllables elicited larger amplitudes in the P2 component than unstressed ones.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-23
PMCID: PMC2263048  PMID: 18282274

Results 1-5 (5)