Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment

Effects of short-term piano training on measures of finger tapping, somatosensory perception and motor-related brain activity in patients with cerebral palsy.

PMID 29123403


Playing a musical instrument demands the integration of sensory and perceptual information with motor processes in order to produce a harmonic musical piece. The diversity of brain mechanisms involved and the joyful character of playing an instrument make musical instrument training a potential vehicle for neurorehabilitation of motor skills in patients with cerebral palsy (CP). This clinical condition is characterized by motor impairments that can affect, among others, manual function, and limit severely the execution of basic daily activities. In this study, adolescents and adult patients with CP, as well as a group of typically developing children learned to play piano for 4 consecutive weeks, having completed a total of 8 hours of training. For ten of the participants, learning was supported by a special technical system aimed at helping people with sensorimotor deficits to better discriminate fingers and orient themselves along the piano keyboard. Potential effects of piano training were assessed with tests of finger tapping at the piano and tests of perception of vibratory stimulation of fingers, and by measuring neuronal correlates of motor learning in the absence of and after piano training. Results were highly variable especially among participants with CP. Nevertheless, a significant effect of training on the ability to perceive the localization of vibrations over fingers was found. No effects of training on the performance of simple finger tapping sequences at the piano or on motor-associated brain responses were registered. Longer periods of training are likely required to produce detectable changes.