Discover the musical state of mind: an MUHC Café scientifique on the brain, music and cognition

How do we perceive melodies? Can music influence the development of newborns?

How do we perceive melodies? Can music influence the development of newborns? What role does music therapy play in today's clinical practice?

The McGill University Health Centre teamed up with the Montreal Neurological Institute and International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS) to bring you this Café Scientifique on Thursday, August 7, 2008.

The event was made possible by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).


Isabelle_Peretz, PhD,

Canada Research Chair in Neurocognition of Music,
Co-Director of BRAMS and
Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Université de Montréal.


Christelle Jacquet, MMT, MTA

Combining her passion with her work, Christelle Jacquet is a musician and therapist who observes on a daily basis the link between music and cognitive development by studying children at the hospital and in their homes.

Dr. Caroline Palmer

Whether it’s to learn how to play a musical instrument or to “move to the beat,” the brain has to break down complex actions into sequences of simpler elements. Dr. Palmer and her team study how children and adults learn musical instruments to understand how memory and motor control develops.

Dr. Robert Zatorre

How does the brain allow us to perceive, assimilate and imagine sound? Dr. Zatorre and his team use functional brain imaging techniques to better understand speech and music learning processes.

Q & A

Part 1:

1. How does musico-therapy work, particularly with regards to proprioception?

2. Does the type of music therapy used vary depending on the condition or on the patient being treated?

3. How important is the music vs. the therapist?

4. Is dance considered to be a form of musical performance?

5. What role does music play in memory, specifically with regards to aging and to diseases such as Alzheimer's?

Part 2:

6. Est-ce que la musique affecte le développement des nouveaux-nés, et où est-ce que l'on pourrait trouver de la documentation sur le sujet?

7. How can musico-therapy benefit hearing impaired or deaf patients?

8. Can a recreation therapist be as effective at music therapy as a musico-therapist? How important is it to actually be a musician?

9. There is a focus on sight over hearing in our society, to the point where there doesn't seem to be a word for auditory visualisation. What are your thoughts on this?

10. What is the relationship between language and music?

10b. Does a musical person have an easier time learning a foreign language?

Part 3:

11. Does music have an effect on the developing mind and on cognition in general?

12. What came first as a means of communication: language or music? Is the same part of the brain dedicated to both?

13. Is music often used for attention therapy / attention training in ADHD?

14. Is it possible that music can change the chemistry of the brain, having an effect on the patient's health?

15. You had mentioned how leaning an instrument can positively affect development of general mental skills in young people. Can doing so at a later age have similar effects?

16. One of my piano students has dylexia, which affects his playing. Is there a way in which I can modify my teaching method to fit his way of thinking?

17. Is it true that there's a link between mathematics and music?

Part 4:

18. In your motion capture studies, have you found that being a musician affects the ability to perform other motor functions such as dancing?

19. Has there been any study on what parts of the brain are stimulated when composing music without any auditory input? (An example would be Beethoven composing symphonies while deaf).

20. When performing complex music, for example during a long piano solo, what exactly is the musician remembering? The location of the keys, the exact notes, the position of his/her hands?

21. What is the Mozart Effect, and do you believe it to be credible?