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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Observation of sonified movements engages a basal ganglia frontocortical network

Gerd Schmitz1, Bahram Mohammadi23, Anke Hammer4, Marcus Heldmann2, Amir Samii3, Thomas F Münte2* and Alfred O Effenberg1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Sports Science, University of Hannover, Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany

3 International Neuroscience Institute, Hannover, Germany

4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-32

Published: 14 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Producing sounds by a musical instrument can lead to audiomotor coupling, i.e. the joint activation of the auditory and motor system, even when only one modality is probed. The sonification of otherwise mute movements by sounds based on kinematic parameters of the movement has been shown to improve motor performance and perception of movements.

Results

Here we demonstrate in a group of healthy young non-athletes that congruently (sounds match visual movement kinematics) vs. incongruently (no match) sonified breaststroke movements of a human avatar lead to better perceptual judgement of small differences in movement velocity. Moreover, functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed enhanced activity in superior and medial posterior temporal regions including the superior temporal sulcus, known as an important multisensory integration site, as well as the insula bilaterally and the precentral gyrus on the right side. Functional connectivity analysis revealed pronounced connectivity of the STS with the basal ganglia and thalamus as well as frontal motor regions for the congruent stimuli. This was not seen to the same extent for the incongruent stimuli.

Conclusions

We conclude that sonification of movements amplifies the activity of the human action observation system including subcortical structures of the motor loop. Sonification may thus be an important method to enhance training and therapy effects in sports science and neurological rehabilitation.