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Master of Science (MS)
Jantzen, Kelly J.
Recent brain imaging studies have demonstrated that the mirror system, in addition to becoming active while viewing the actions of others, also responds to abstract visual and auditory stimuli associated with specific actions. Growing evidence suggests that such mappings are learned leading to the hypothesis that the motor system may respond to any stimuli strongly associated to a specific motor response. Reading sheet music is an excellent example in which musicians rapidly and automatically translate arbitrary visual symbols into music by a well practiced series of actions. Here we test the hypothesis that when musicians read sheet music an associated motor program is automatically recruited in the same way as when we observe the actions of others. Using EEG, we measured mu desynchronization in the alpha and beta bands of the sensorimotor cortex while musicians and non-musicians observed various music stimuli. Musicians showed significantly greater mu desynchronization than non-musicians in both alpha and beta bands when observing sheet music and musical performances. Our results demonstrate that mirror neuron activity is not restricted to motor acts and their consequences, suggesting that the symbolic representation of music and its performance activate the mirror neuron system. The implication of these findings is that the learning of a broad range of arbitrary sensorimotor mappings may be represented within the motor system and facilitated by the mirror neuron activity.
Western Washington University
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Behmer, Lawrence Paul, "Reading sheet music activates the mirror neuron system of musicians: an EEG investigation." (2010). WWU Graduate School Collection. 41.