Motoric Working Memory Imagery

As many musicians have discovered, musical instrument playing can be rehearsed mentally. For example, in the piano keyboard melody recall task described previously, the pianists reported mentally rehearsing their keyboard recall attempts, not only through inner singing but also through mental simulation of keyboard fingering, prior to actually playing. To investigate the effects of mental practice, Pascual-Leone, in the piano keyboard sequence learning experiment described previously, also studied changes in motor cortical output maps and in performance following 5 days of mental practice. Subsequent performance improved steadily across the 5 days, although not as much as after an equivalent amount of physical practice (Fig. 8A). However, the increase in the extent of the cortical motor output maps was the same (Fig. 8B).

Brain imaging studies have demonstrated the activation of many of the same areas during the mental simulation of motor acts as during their overt physical performance (e.g., SMA, premotor cortex, basal ganglia, and sensorimotor cortex). In fact, all these areas were activated when subjects mentally sang musical intervals in the experiment described in Section III.B. However, for musical motor tasks, imagined sound output is also involved and in fact constitutes the explicit focus of attention. Activation was also seen in the ventrolateral frontal cortex and the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

In fact, this study, one of the simplest examples of musical expression or imagery, indicates the complexity involved in their study. Both fundamentally involve integrated motoric and auditory representations and the integrated functioning of motoric and auditory

Kinesthetic Motor Imagery And Piano

Figure 8 Piano exercise learning, physical vs mental practice. (A) Sequence errors: The number of errors in the order of notes on a posttest of 20 repetitions of the practiced exercise. •, physical practice group; O, mental practice group; ■, control group. 5', in one physical practice session, the mental practice group attained the same performance level as that of the physical practice group. (B) Cortical motor output maps: Representative examples of cortical motor output maps for the long finger flexor and extensor muscles on Days 1-5 from a subject who practiced 2hr/day, another who practiced mentally (i.e., sat in front of the piano for 2 hr and visualized the fingers performing the exercise while imaging the sound), and a control subject who played random sequences (all for the trained right hand). (reproduced with permission from Pascual-Leone etal., 1995).

Figure 8 Piano exercise learning, physical vs mental practice. (A) Sequence errors: The number of errors in the order of notes on a posttest of 20 repetitions of the practiced exercise. •, physical practice group; O, mental practice group; ■, control group. 5', in one physical practice session, the mental practice group attained the same performance level as that of the physical practice group. (B) Cortical motor output maps: Representative examples of cortical motor output maps for the long finger flexor and extensor muscles on Days 1-5 from a subject who practiced 2hr/day, another who practiced mentally (i.e., sat in front of the piano for 2 hr and visualized the fingers performing the exercise while imaging the sound), and a control subject who played random sequences (all for the trained right hand). (reproduced with permission from Pascual-Leone etal., 1995).

working memory systems. Thus, the song and imagery tasks described previously involve not only auditory imagery but also, at least implicitly, motoric simulation. Thus, all three tasks (imaging two-tone musical sequences, melodies, or songs) activated pre-SMA, in contrast to simple singing of a single note or imaging of an overlearned melody, which activated SMA proper.

The musical interval and melody imagery tasks also activated premotor cortex and the superior temporal gyrus—further evidence of simultaneous activity in the motoric and auditory working memory/imagery systems. Further work is needed in order to understand the functioning of each system in isolation as well as the mechanisms that allow their integration in melodic working memory and even in long-term melodic representations.

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