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1.  Impaired learning of event frequencies in tone deafness 
Musical knowledge is ubiquitous, effortless, and implicitly acquired all over the world via exposure to musical materials in one’s culture. In contrast, one group of individuals who show insensitivity to music, specifically the inability to discriminate pitches and melodies, is the tone-deaf. In this study, we asked whether difficulties in pitch and melody discrimination among the tone-deaf could be related to learning difficulties, and, if so, what processes of learning might be affected in the tone-deaf. We investigated the learning of frequency information in a new musical system in tone-deaf individuals and matched controls. Results showed significantly impaired learning abilities in frequency matching in the tone-deaf. This impairment was positively correlated with the severity of tone deafness as assessed by the Montreal Battery for Evaluation of Amusia. Taken together, the results suggest that tone deafness is characterized by an impaired ability to acquire frequency information from pitched materials in the sound environment.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06401.x
PMCID: PMC3666323  PMID: 22524379
statistical learning; frequency; probability; tone deafness; amusia; music; pitch
2.  When right is all that's left: plasticity of right-hemisphere tracts in a young aphasic patient 
Using an adapted version of melodic intonation therapy (MIT), we treated an adolescent girl with a very large left-hemisphere lesion and severe nonfluent aphasia secondary to an ischemic stroke. At the time of her initial assessment 1.25 years after her stroke, she had reached a plateau in her recovery despite intense and long-term traditional speech-language therapy (approximately five times per week for more than one year). Following an intensive course of treatment with our adapted form of MIT, her performance improved on both trained and untrained phrases, as well as on speech and language tasks. These behavioral improvements were accompanied by functional MRI changes in the right frontal lobe as well as by an increased volume of white matter pathways in the right hemisphere. No increase in white matter volume was seen in her healthy twin sister, who was scanned twice over the same time period. This case study not only provides further evidence for MIT's effectiveness, but also indicates that intensive treatment can induce functional and structural changes in a right hemisphere fronto-temporal network.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06454.x
PMCID: PMC3589758  PMID: 22524365
aphasia; melodic intonation therapy; brain plasticity; diffusion tensor imaging
3.  Training-induced Neuroplasticity in Young Children 
As the main interhemispheric fiber tract, the corpus callosum (CC) is of particular importance for musicians who simultaneously engage parts of both hemispheres to process and play music. Professional musicians who began music training before the age of 7 years have larger anterior CC areas than do nonmusicians, which suggests that plasticity due to music training may occur in the CC during early childhood. However, no study has yet demonstrated that the increased CC area found in musicians is due to music training rather than to preexisting differences. We tested the hypothesis that approximately 29 months of instrumental music training would cause a significant increase in the size of particular subareas of the CC known to have fibers that connect motor-related areas of both hemispheres. On the basis of total weekly practice time, a sample of 31 children aged 5–7 was divided into three groups: high-practicing, low-practicing, and controls. No CC size differences were seen at base line, but differences emerged after an average of 29 months of observation in the high-practicing group in the anterior midbody of the CC (which connects premotor and supplementary motor areas of the two hemispheres). Total weekly music exposure predicted degree of change in this subregion of the CC as well as improvement on a motor-sequencing task. Our results show that it is intense musical experience/practice, not preexisting differences, that is responsible for the larger anterior CC area found in professional adult musicians.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04842.x
PMCID: PMC3005566  PMID: 19673782
music; brain; corpus callosum; children; plasticity
4.  Evidence for Plasticity in White Matter Tracts of Chronic Aphasic Patients Undergoing Intense Intonation-based Speech Therapy 
Recovery from aphasia can be achieved through recruitment of either peri-lesional brain regions in the affected hemisphere or homologous language regions in the non-lesional hemisphere. For patients with large left-hemisphere lesions, recovery through the right hemisphere may be the only possible path. The right hemisphere regions most likely to play a role in this recovery process are the superior temporal lobe (important for auditory feedback control), premotor regions/posterior inferior frontal gyrus (important for planning and sequencing of motor actions and for auditory-motor mapping) and the primary motor cortex (important for execution of vocal motor actions). These regions are connected reciprocally via a major fiber tract called the arcuate fasciculus (AF), but this tract is usually not as well developed in the non-dominant right hemisphere. We tested whether an intonation-based speech therapy (i.e., Melodic Intonation Therapy) which is typically administered in an intense fashion with 75–80 daily therapy sessions, would lead to changes in white matter tracts, particularly the AF. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), we found a significant increase in the number of AF fibers and AF volume comparing post with pre-treatment assessments in 6 patients that could not be attributed to scan-to-scan variability. This suggests that intense, long-term Melodic Intonation Therapy leads to remodeling of the right AF and may provide an explanation for the sustained therapy effects that were seen in these 6 patients.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04587.x
PMCID: PMC2777670  PMID: 19673813
Melodic Intonation Therapy; Speech Therapy; Plasticity; Diffusion Tensor Imaging; Aphasia
5.  Investigating Musical Disorders with Diffusion Tensor Imaging: a Comparison of Imaging Parameters 
The Arcuate Fasciculus (AF) is a bundle of white matter traditionally thought to be responsible for language function. However, its role in music is not known. Here we investigate the connectivity of the AF using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and show that musically tone-deaf individuals, who show impairments in pitch discrimination, have reduced connectivity in the AF relative to musically normal-functioning control subjects. Results were robust to variations in imaging parameters and emphasize the importance of brain connectivity in para-linguistic processes such as music.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04781.x
PMCID: PMC2785849  PMID: 19673766
musical disorders; Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI); Arcuate Fasciculus; language; pitch perception
6.  Melodic Intonation Therapy: Shared Insights on How it is Done and Why it Might Help 
For over 100 years, clinicians have noted that patients with nonfluent aphasia are capable of singing words that they cannot speak. Thus, the use of melody and rhythm has long been recommended for improving aphasic patients’ fluency, but it was not until 1973 that a music-based treatment (Melodic Intonation Therapy, (MIT)) was developed. Our ongoing investigation of MIT’s efficacy has provided valuable insight into this therapy’s effect on language recovery. Here we share those observations, our additions to the protocol that aim to enhance MIT’s benefit, and the rationale that supports them.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04859.x
PMCID: PMC2780359  PMID: 19673819
Melodic Intonation Therapy; nonfluent aphasia; language recovery; brain plasticity; music therapy

Results 1-6 (6)