Music & Neurosciences

The Neurosciences and Music Mutual interactions and implications on developmental functions

October 24 - 26 2002
San Servolo Island, Venice


Organizing Committee:

Giuliano AVANZINI, M.D.
Dipartimento di Neurofisiopatologia
Istituto Nazionale Neurologico Carlo Besta
Via Celoria 11
20133 MILANO
Tel. +39 02 2304253
Fax + 39 02 70635350
e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Carmine FAIENZA, M.D.
Servizio di Neuropsichiatria Infantile
Via Gramsci, 14
43100 PARMA (Italy)
Tel. + 39 0521 290459
fax. + 39 0521 290458
e-mail. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Fondazione Pierfranco e Luisa Mariani
Viale Bianca Maria 28
20129 Milano, Italy
Tel +39 02 795458
fax + 39 02 76009582
e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dept. Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences
Univ. of Florence,
Viale Pieraccini 6, I-50134, Florence, Italy.
Tel: +39 055 4279788
Fax: +39 055 290662
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Site: San Servolo Island, Venice
Expected audience: 200 attendees

Introduction and description
Our knowledge on the cerebral representation of the functions regarding musical production and perception, as well as their development along the course of brain maturation, has been enormously enriched thanks to the remarkable growth of scientific contributions published in recent years.
In particular, numerous studies have further clarified the analogies and differences between the elaboration processes underlying musical functions as opposed to verbal ones.
Additionally, the study of the relationship between music and movement has evolved from a more empirical phase to enter a proper scientific dimension, which allows to define precise correlations between the development of motor behaviour and that of the perception and production of temporal musical sequences.
As life science has gained insights on anatomical, physiological and behavioural mechanisms of brain functioning, music has benefited from these achievements. An increasing number of composers has now started contructing sound and sound objects based on models and information derived from biological and psychological studies.
The meeting has the purpose of gathering major experts in the fields of neurobiological, neuropsychological and developmental research applied to music, as well as musicians interested in elaborating on the modalities and peculiarities of musical perception and construction. The multidisciplinary format of the meeting is reflected in the different backgrounds of its coordinators, with the involvement of an international panel of invited speakers. The first two days of the meeting will be led by two neurologists: Giuliano Avanzini (Milan), with his wide-ranging neurophysiology specialization in both the clinical and research fields, will direct the topic Music related cerebral functions, and Diego Minciacchi (Florence), who associates a primary interest in neuro-anatomy and neuro-physiology with the activity of composing, will investigate How brain scientists use music - How musicians use brain research. The third day, Music and brain development, is entrusted to Carmine Faienza (Parma) a child neurologist who has edited another volume on "Music, Speech and the Developing Brain" based on the 1992 international workshop held in Parma, and Maria Majno (Milan) a music scholar with performance training who for several years has been involved in pediatric neurology.

Day 1
Cerebral organization of music-related functions
coordinated by Giuliano Avanzini

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an impressive flourishing of investigations on cerebral representation of music-related functions. An increased attention towards this field is quickly filling the gap with respect to previously more advanced research achievements in other areas such as perceptual, language and motor functions. The advantages of better understanding of the way music is processed within the central nervous system has proven able to provide new insights into neural machinery for higher brain functioning.

1.1 Functional investigations of musical abilities
Current imaging techniques have substantially broadened the scope of tools for brain exploration as a major complement to pre-existing neurophysiological and neuropsychological methods. Through a review and update on the results of recently developed techniques, and their mutual correlations, further advancement on the neural bases of music perception and production is expected. Progress in the neuropsychological approach has benefited from the design and carrying out of specific procedures suitable to test musical competencies. Neurophysiological investigations have been enhanced through new techniques of signal analysis and magneto-encephalography. Positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance studies have contributed particularly in defining the cortical organization of music-related functions, whereas neurophysiological investigations are still unsurpassed for optimal time resolution.
Introductory lecture: The musical brain
Robert J. Zatorre, Montreal
Helmuth Petsche, Austrian Academy of Sciences, University of Vienna
someone from the group of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig (Angela FRIEDERICI is the director)
Mismatch negativity
Mari Tervaniemi, Helsinki
Evoked Potentials
Catherine Liégeois-Chauvel, Marseille
Functional MRI
Tim Griffiths, Newcastle

1.2 Neurological disorders
After the observations of amusias reported a the turn of the century, a significant body of evidence has been gathered on the specifically musical functional impairments depending on localized or diffuse cortical lesions. Particularly notable contributions have come from the study of epilepsies, both as analysis of musicogenic seizures and of musical defects ensuing to cerebral resections for the treatment of intractable epilepsies. However, due to the rather limited application of musical culture in neurology, the opportunity offered by this approach has not yet been adequately pursued. This session aims at updating the available information and providing clinicians with guidelines to analyze musical dysfunctions in neurological patients.

An overview of musical impairments in neurological diseases
Luigi Vignolo
Hemispheric asymmetries in amusias
Isabelle Peretz
Ictal disturbance of musical performance
Hans-Gregor Wieser, Zürich
Musicogenic seizures
Giuliano Avanzini

1.3 Round table: Dissecting the perceptual components of music
A panel of neuroscientists and musicians will discuss the elementary components of music. The idea is to challenge the traditional elements upon which musical education is based (rhythm, melody, harmony etc.) with what we have learned about music processing in the central nervous system. It may result that some of these elements can be further dissected into yet more elementary components. On the other hand, some musical abilities as defined by neuropsychological investigations may be relevant for more than one of the competences as traditionally identified by music theorists.

Invited participants
Carol Krumhansl, chair

Ian Cross, Cambridge University
Giovanni De Poli, Università di Padova
Steve McAdams, IRCAM, Paris
Aniruddh Patel, The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego
Séverine Samson, Lille
Musicologist TBA
Tomas Munte, Magdeburg



Day 2
Brain sciences versus music
coordinated by Diego Minciacchi

Our concepts on how the brain receives and elaborates musical information and produces plans for the accomplishment of musical tasks are rapidly changing. Brain sciences now propose a detailed anatomical and physiological working model of the auditory system, from the ear to the cortical areas concerned with hearing. Furthermore, innovative behavioural studies in human and animal models have shown the potential use of music as a tool in neurophysiological and neuropsychological research. Music research, in turn, offers significant results in the fields of perception and psychoacoustics. In addition, the making of music variously connected with brain sciences represents a field of growing interest and produces already actual sound objects. For the first time it seems possible to propose a confrontation by bringing together different experiences and knowledge in order to promote future cooperative development on both scientific research and musical grounds.

2.1 How brain sciences exploit music
A broad mass of information has been accumulated during the past years on the anatomy and physiology of brain regions concerned with musical hearing. From the lowest auditory centers in the brainstem we can now track the flow of sound computation and the cell networks undelying music processing. The cortex decomposes the auditory scene into component parts using feature-processing systems and receptive fields of primary auditory cortex neurons change the tuning of frequency as result of behavioral learning. This latter finding has been interpreted as element of a physiological memory enduring neuronal change sufficiently specific to represent learned musical information. Finally, evidences are available for the principles of cortical sensorimotor integration under auditory control and studies on music performers provide insights into mechanisms of long-term cortical plasticity.
Anatomical and physiological bases of musical hearing
Edward G. Jones
Univ. California Davis
Decomposing the sound scene in the auditory cortex
Michael M. Merzenich
Dept. Otolaryngol. & Physiol., Univ. of California, San Francisco
Physiological memory and plasticity in auditory cortex: the impact of music on brain development
Norman M. Weinberger
Ctr. Neurbiol. Learning & Memory, Univ. of California, Irvine
Audio-motor Integration in musicians: combined neurophysiological and behavioral studies
Eckart Altenmüller
Institute of Music Physiology and Performing Arts Medicine, Hannover

2.2 How musicians use brain research
Musicians from their side start being attentive to information on brain organization and functioning, and this become increasingly visible in their compositional and aesthetic concepts as well as in their musical production. Research into information processing modes of the brain as they relate to aesthetic experience has challenged composers to realize music through extended musical interfaces with the human nervous system. In addition, achievements come from recent studies on perceptions of microsound which have explored the aesthetics and techniques of composition with acoustical particles. Finally, it is now even possible to present evidence that information acquired from brain research experiments has been directly used to generate all relevant parameters of compositional plans of musical works up from the general design down to the smallest detail.
Implication of "virtual" music from the internet
William Duckworth
Department of Music, Bucknel University, Pennsylvania
Music from extended musical interfaces with the human nervous system
David Rosenbloom
California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita
The perception of microsound and its musical implications
Curtis Roads
Department of Music, University of California, Santa Barbara
The translation from neurobiological data to musical parameters
Diego Minciacchi
Dept. of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences, Univ. of Florence

2.3 Round table: A common high-level ground for scientists and musicians
The key point of the round table, involving both brain scientists and musicians, is to build tentative bridges between the scientific design of experimental strategies and the formulation of reasoning in music. The controversial fracture between science and music is relatively recent and the coming of profound division of work and the focus on products rather than on the processes of thinking probably contributed to the cleft. However, the evidence for experiences connecting the two fields is actually increasing and brain scientists and musicians are urged to acquire information and expertise. The round table is intended to encourage discussion on research results pertinent to music and musical achievements relevant for brain science, and to address some current misunderstandings in investigations linking brain/behavior and music. It will ultimately try to better visualize and organize the links connecting the interpretation of brain functional processes and the conception of sounds and music. This search for a common ground of interest for musicians and scientists will potentially help both the interpretation of scientific findings and the realization of musical objects.
Invited participants
Eckart Altenmüller (Germany)
Diana Deutsch (UC San Diego)
Marco Molinari (Italy)
Alexander Mihalic (France)
Curtis Roads (USA)

Musical event
to illustrate the above
Day 3
Music and development
coordinated by Carmine Faienza and Maria Majno

3. Music and development
During development from prenatal and early postnatal age to childhood, music-related functions undergo processes of stage-related emergence, which have been extensively studied in their aspects of cultural dependency and consistency with other progressive learning acquisitions. The investigation of perceptual components which has been carried out on the adult population should now further be adapted to the developmental age in order to define the interactions between musical abilities and other motor, cognitive and emotional abilities. This is the purpose of the third section of the meeting, with focus particularly on the early stages of development, and on the alternative between acquired versus innate competencies, which acknowledges the contributions of both technical advances and recently elaborated cognitive models.

3.1 Development of musical abilities
Systematic research on fetal reactivity to musical stimuli is relatively recent, even though mentions of prenatal reaction to sounds have been appearing in medical literature since the first half of the XX century (whereas popular belief was moving along these lines already during the Renaissance). While using the same sensory channel - the one of audition - linguistic and musical abilities are structured according to two quite distinct neural architectures. Under the ontogenetic profile, is it possible to document and correlate the development of auditory abilities with that of a distinct elaboration of verbal and musical stimuli?
Carmine Faienza, Parma
Prenatal detection of reactivity to music
Lecanuet, Caen or Fassbender
Musical perception in infancy related to cultural and cross-cultural environments
Sandra Trehub, Toronto
Acquisition of musical skills in relation to age ranges
Carol Krumhansl
The specificity of rhythmic processing in musical abilities
Carolyn Drake
Genetic aspects of perfect pitch
Speaker to be determined

3.2 Acquired vs innate competencies: disorders and special abilities
Substantial results now support the hypothesis of a congenital origin for musical abilities, which are innate as to their complexity, and capable of modification according to environmental stimuli. Yet it is possible to demonstrate that such abilities can be broken down into separate factors, thus enabling to diagnose disorders of music perception and processing from a very early age (amusias, dysmusias, tone-deafness, etc.) This session aims to verify this position from a clinical standpoint with collective data as well as individual case reports, by proving how environmental stimuli can affect innate abilities, and by updating research results on music-related pathologies. It has been documented that a pathology affecting just one of the two acoustic-dependent abilities, either language or music, can spare the other, and how single components of music processing can be selectively spared. Additionally, the importance of phonological awareness in the development of language and reading capabilities is now well accepted. Many researchers have addressed the issue, coming to the conclusion that an impairment of fast auditory processing could be the clue to developmental dyslexia and language disabilities. Thus, the understanding of developing musical skills in infants and children might also yield indications for other complex abilities, such as reading.

Correlation of specific deficiencies with learning disorders and musical disabilities
suggestion of Overy / Rod / Nicolson / Fawcett / Clarke group for this subject
Neurobiological and psychological correlates of exceptional performances in normal development
Rolf Oerter, Munich
High musical performance in normal development vs. pervasive developmental disorders
speaker TBA
possibily replace with
"The cognitive effects of musical aducation" (Costa Giomi, Montreal? Spoke in Keele; other possibilities?)
Or should this also go into the Round Table?

+ possible additional topics to be determined by Round Table participants who may have recent research results to report

3.3. Round Table: Import of musical training on cognition, behaviour and skills
A major purpose of this conference is to propose a specifically designed musical curriculum to be regularly implemented in standard education as a tool to evaluate the impact of music education on development. On the basis of current knowledge and further perspectives of research, the characteristics of such a curriculum should be defined in relation to the development of cognitive faculties and to the emergence and multiplication of specialized skills, in addition to behavioural implications and rehabilitation procedures. In keeping with the aims of the Mariani Foundation, this objective should be pursued for both normal and neurologically affected children.

Possible participants
Mireille Besson, Marseille
Irène Deliège
Wilfried Gruhn, Freiburg
John Sloboda, Keele
Gunther Kreutz, Frankfurt
Agnes Chan


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