Project Title: 

Multimodal Musical Stimulation for Healthy Neurocognitive Aging

Funding detail: 
Northeastern University
Principal Investigator: 
Psyche Loui
Start year: 
Project summary: 

Music that we encounter every day contains amplitude and frequency modulations, rapid changes in acoustic signals that convey meaningful information to the listener. The human brain’s ability to receive and interpret meaning from these signals is implemented by networks of neural oscillations: firing patterns of groups of neurons that track the music with rhythmic activity. Neural oscillations in different frequency bands subserve attention and memory, as well as perception and comprehension; they develop over the lifespan and are reduced in aging, especially in dementia. Being able to understand and causally control neural oscillations will have crucial implications for healthy neurocognitive aging. Since music naturally stimulates the brain with its rhythmic content over time, we hypothesize that music can be used as a sustainable, naturalistic form of brain stimulation to induce oscillatory in neuronal populations. Furthermore, we hypothesize that by inserting gamma-band energy as sensory stimulation during music listening, we can increase gamma-band activity in the brain in a way that is frequency-tuned to the brain’s intrinsic network dynamics, thus replacing the decreased neural oscillations that are reduced in aging, and improving memory and cognition in older adults. We hypothesize that gamma-band modulations inserted in lights, when coupled with music listening, can improve memory in older adults by frequency-tuning to intrinsic individual brain network dynamics. Here we propose the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled feasibility study, to test the effects of music-coupled gamma-band stimulation on EEG and behavioral indices of working memory in older adults. Results will test the causal role of oscillatory mechanisms of the brain on cognition. If successful, this trial will lay the groundwork to the first musical, neurophysiologically targeted, brain-stimulation device for reversing cognitive decline in aging.

For more information on this project, see their NIH Research Portfolio.

Other Key Personnel: 

Edward Large