The role of cerebral resonance behavior in the control of music performance: an fMRI study

Robert Harris, Bauke M. de Jong

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Mirror neurons in the cerebral cortex have been shown to fire not only
during performance but also during visual and auditory observation of
activity. This phenomenon is commonly called cerebral resonance behavior.
This would mean that cortical motor regions would not only be
activated while singing, but also while listening to music. The same
should hold true for playing a music instrument. Although most individuals
are able to sing along when they hear a melody, even highly
skilled instrumentalists, however, are frequently unable to play by ear.
They are score-dependent—i.e. they are only able to play a piece of music
when they have access to the notes—while musicians who are able to play
by ear and improvise are non score-dependent; they are able to play
without notes. Our hypothesis is that score-dependent instrumentalists
will exhibit less cerebral resonance behavior than non score-dependent
musicians while listening to music. Using fMRI to measure BOLD response,
subjects listen to two-part harmony presented with headphones.
The following experimental conditions are distinguished: (1) well-known
vs. unknown music (2) motor imagery vs. attentive listening. A voxelbased
analysis of differences between the condition-related cerebral activations
is performed using Statistical Parametric Mapping.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2011
Event3rd International Symposium on Performance Science (ISPS) 2011: Models of Performance - Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 24 Aug 201127 Aug 2011
Conference number: 3rd


Conference3rd International Symposium on Performance Science (ISPS) 2011
Abbreviated titleISPS 2011
Internet address


  • cerebral resonance behavior
  • music performance
  • neuroscience


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