Psychology

Western News – Mapping ‘the magic’ of music, movement and the brain – Western News

Summary

A new research grant for Western neuroscientist and psychology professor Jessica Grahn will open more opportunities to investigate the link between music and movement, and potential interventions to help Parkinson’s disease patients.

Jessica Grahn (Sylvie Li/Shoot Studio)

Grahn has been awarded a 2021 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The pres…….

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A new research grant for Western neuroscientist and psychology professor Jessica Grahn will open more opportunities to investigate the link between music and movement, and potential interventions to help Parkinson’s disease patients.

Jessica Grahn (Sylvie Li/Shoot Studio)

Grahn has been awarded a 2021 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The prestigious fellowship comes with a $250,000 research stipend and two years of protected research time.

The award recognizes Grahn’s major contributions to the fields of psychology and neuroscience as the first researcher to establish the neural link between hearing musical rhythm and spontaneous activation of the brain’s motor control system.

As a member of Western’s Brain and Mind Institute (BMI), Grahn investigates why humans move to rhythm. “I am interested in how the sound processing system in the brain creates magic in the movement system (portion) of the brain,” Grahn said.

In her music and neuroscience lab, Grahn uses fMRI, gait monitoring and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to examine how different motor areas in the brain respond to different rhythms. She is also investigating how rhythm and music may be processed in the brains of those with dysfunction in movement areas, such as patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Western’s interdisciplinary environment attracted Grahn from the University of Cambridge more than a decade ago. Having access to state-of-the-art technology and the support of collaborative, highly trained colleagues “is crucial to winning an award like this,” Grahn said. “I can apply the technique that best suits the type of research I’m conducting, with very little overhead, and without having to start from scratch like many other early-stage researchers.”

Music, movement and the brain

Growing up, Grahn was drawn to playing other people’s pianos until her parents conceded and bought one of their own. “They chose one that looked pretty in case my interest didn’t last,” she said.

Their purchase netted a good return on investment, with Grahn taking lessons from an early age and throughout high school.

A second passion emerged as she began musing the mysteries of the mind.

“In junior high school I became interested in the brain and how it held the key to how we come to be who we are and why we do the things we do,” she said. “I was very intentional at looking for universities where I could do a double degree because I didn’t want to compromise on either music or the neuroscience at the time, I was passionate about both.”

True to her plan, Grahn graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago with a BA/BMus double degree in neuroscience and piano performance.

By the time she was in graduate school at Cambridge, “the topics I was interested in and …….

Source: https://news.westernu.ca/2021/11/mapping-the-magic-of-music-movement-and-the-brain/