Cerebral activations in highly-skilled keyboard performers: an fMRI study

Robert Harris, Bauke M. de Jong

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterOther research output


    Recognition of action, goals and intentions has been shown to be mediated by a multimodal mirror-neuron system, not only in monkeys, but also in humans. A fronto-parietal network of brain areas has been identified where these neurons are located. We should expect musical actions, goals and intentions to be mediated by this system as well. In this fMRI study, we present audio recordings of music composed in two-part harmony to 10 professional, improvising keyboard performers. The first task (Motor Imagery) was to imagine playing the piece, the second task (Judgment) to listen attentively while assessing the performance . Half of the pieces were familiar, the other half unfamiliar. A group of musically unskilled subjects participated as controls. As hypothesized, a fronto-parietal network of cerebral areas was activated, not only during Motor Imagery, but also during Judgement, including activity in left, ventral PMC. In a behavioral test, the ability of these performers to recognize musical actions, goals and intentions was corroborated. Performers listened to various excerpts, played them by ear, harmonized them and transposed them, demonstrating that they not only could replicate, but also manipulate them in a musically plausible manner, suggesting that the cerebral activations observed could indeed be ascribed to recognition of musical action, goals and intentions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • music performance
    • improvisation
    • neuroscience
    • embodied cognition
    • mirror neurons


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