Music training promotes better beat perception in Parkinson’s patients: study

June 14, 2022

Two older people dancing - photo by Rodnae Productions for Pexels

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

A new study out of Jessica Grahn’s music lab suggests music training may preserve certain rhythmic motor training abilities in early-stage Parkinson’s disease.

Grahn, a psychology professor and member of the Western Institute for Neuroscience, combines her unique background as a classically trained concert pianist and training as a neuroscientist to focus on why humans move to rhythm, and how and why movement and rhythm may be connected in the brain.

“Humans naturally perceive and move to a music beat, falling into the rhythm through clapping, tapping and dancing,” she said. “Yet the accuracy of this seemingly effortless behaviour varies widely across individuals.”

Beat perception and production abilities can be improved by experience such as music or dance training, and as previous studies have shown, can also be impaired by neurological changes, including in Parkinson’s disease.

Using data collected over a series of smaller studies, Grahn, along with Emily Ready, MSc (OT)’17, PhD’19 and Prisca Hsu, BSc’21, saw an opportunity to investigate how musical training might affect Parkinson’s patients.

“We were curious whether musical training might alter what we usually see in people with Parkinson’s, in that they are slightly worse at the ability to tap and feel the beat,” Grahn said.

Read the full story by Keri Ferguson at Western News