Applied neuroscience

Adapting Scientific Methods into Neuro-Musical Games
What’s Mila’s neuroscientific approach?

In the last 20 years, neuroscientific research has led development of new music based methods and techniques for effective therapy through musical education. When used with other rehabilitation methods, it has significantly increased the success rate of lasting benefits in sensorimotor, cognitive, and communicative rehabilitation. Researchers have also proven that music has a powerful effect in our emotions. Listening and playing music is directly associated to our brain’s dopamine and endorphin levels, giving it the power to make us feel happy, inspired, excited, relaxed or sad.

From our scientific review of research in neuroscience and through partnering with leading neurologists and therapists, we’ve create Mila: Musical Interactions and Learning Activities. Our solution is a digital interactive adaptation of musical methods and interventions employed by health professionals in the fields of speech-language and behavioral therapy.

I. Neuro-Musical Research
Cortico-cortical connectivity

From the studies of Boets et al, in 2012 [1], we’ve learnt that to read a text or play music, the brain must connect different areas: the ones that allow you to see the word, the ones to understand what you read, areas that allows motor movement to play music, and so on. For this, the brain uses in particular a link between the front and back of the brain called arcuate fasciculus (linking the Broca area to the Wernicke area).This was also explored by the works of Halwani et al, 2011 [2] : in the case of dyslexic children, it is observed that this connexion is much less developed. Current treatments are therefore working to redevelop this beam. On this point, music is extremely effective because it involves connecting the motor and auditory areas in the brain. Thus, musicians have an arcuate fasciculus up to 1.5 times more developed than non-musicians because it is more often solicited.

Widmann et al, [3] make the same observation : dyslexia patients have difficulties in creating links to simultaneously associate the visual abstraction of a letter and the sound it produces; this is also related to a connection problem between different areas of the brain. This auditory-visual link is well mastered by musicians: a pianist must know that a certain piano touch (visual) produces such a note (auditory). Training the audio-visual abilities of the brain of dyslexic patients through music helps to progress in reading because it will more quickly link the image of the letter and the sound it produces.

Mila’s goal is to offer music exercises to redevelop communication between different areas of the brain and effectively treat dys disorders.

Musical practices on brain plasticity

On another side, Habib et Besson [4] conducted a remarkable study in 2008: What do music training and musical experience teach us about brain plasticity? They found that the dyslexic brain lacks plasticity, that is to say: its structure does not change easily. The practice of music makes this brain plasticity possible because the brain must adapt to receiving and controlling a lot of information at the same time: a pianist must look at which key to press, make the movement of the hand, and check that he plays the right note by listening to the result. These are complex brain operations. Moreover, thanks to the many repetitions necessary to progress in music, the brain becomes accustomed to these operations and improves at connecting certain zones quickly and in an effective way. in other words, the brain of the musician learns better and faster. Kujala et al, had began exploring this subject in 2001 [5].

Practicing music allows to train these rhythmic, auditory and visual abilities, and to develop coordination between the areas of the brain involved.

II. Musical and the Brain: Experimental Results
Music and the Analysis of Language Sounds

In 2016 in Marseille, a team of researchers led by neurologist Michel Habib created a program of musical reeducation for dyslexic children [13]. The proposed exercises involved both the perception and the production of music; they grouped the various modalities of the music: the rhythm, the height of the sounds, the tempo. Finally, the program included exercises linking music and language in order to better rehabilitate the latter.

Before the beginning of the program and after six weeks of the program, the dyslexic children were tested on an exercise of differentiation of “b” and “p” in oral; At the end of the test, the percentage of correct answers was increased by almost 30% compared to before the program. In addition, progress persisted for several weeks even without training.

Music and Brain Plasticity

The simple practice of an instrument allows the brain to improve its structure. Hyde and his colleagues [11] in Canada gave 15 months of piano lessons to healthy 6-year-olds. Using medical imaging, they found that the size of the brain areas related to auditory processing and motor skills increased by 5% compared to a control group of children who did not play music. They proved that the practice of a long-term instrument could facilitate brain plasticity in children. Lappe and his colleagues [12] proved that over a two-week period, playing the piano for auditory and motor training further increased brain plasticity by activities as simple as listening to the piano: the simplest auditory training. They did find that it is more beneficial to practice music rather than to just listen to it.

Music and Temporal Perception

Another field of study related to dyslexia and the brain has focused on the perception of time. De Martino, Habib et al, [6] discovered that dyslexia patients have difficulty in analyzing sequences of elements in order: sounds, words, rhythms, or melodies. It is precisely observed that the brain uses the same circuits to analyze the sounds in words, and to analyze the notes of a melody, further supporting our approach. Other studies such as those by Kujala [5]; Tierney and Kraus [9], and Cumming et al, [10] have also explored these terrains: They found that dyslexics have even more troubles following musical measure because it involves the coordination of listening to a rhythm and movement.

A team of researchers from the city of Lyon, France, studied a group of dysphasic and dyslexic children to better understand their temporal perception [14]. The children had to listen to sentences and announce whether they were correct or not. Before each sentence, they listened to a regular or irregular rhythm.

Children made fewer mistakes in their judgment after listening to a regular rhythm. The study concluded that listening to a “musical” rhythm allows the brain to anticipate and better analyze the rhythmic “language”, thus arriving to a better understanding of sentences.

III. Music for Screening Language Disorders

Music can contribute to a first screening for dyslexia or other learning disorders.

After researching a group of 225 Italian dyslexic children, other authors have proved that a link exists between the abilities to manipulate rhythm and the ability to manipulate the sounds of language. For example, children who could not reproduce a rhythm also failed to read unfamiliar words. This shows that a musical test, in addition to a reading test, can help confirm a diagnosis of dyslexia.[15].

Another example lies in the researching conducted by S. Clément and his team [16], which showed that most children (6 out of 8 children in the study) with an oral language disorder also had difficulty imitating a note or singing a melody. tasks can therefore complement the assessment of language disorders.

IV. Literature and Scientific Studies That Guide Us

[1] A tractography study in dyslexia : neuroanatomic correlates of orthographic, phonological and speech processing, Vandermosten, Boets et al, 2012)

[2] Effects of practice and experience on the arcuate fasciculus : comparing singers, instrumentalists, and non-musicians, Halwani et al, 2011)

[3] Mapping symbols to sounds : electrophysiological correlates of the impaired reading process in dyslexia, Widmann et al, 2012)

[4] What do music training and musical experience teach us about brain plasticity ? Habib et Besson, 2008

[5] Plastic neural changes and reading improvement caused by audiovisual training in reading-impaired children, Kujala et al, 2001)

[6] The “temporal processing deficit” hypothesis in dyslexia : new experimental evidence, De Martino, Habib et al, 2001

[7] Basic auditory processing deficits in dyslexia : systematic review of the behavioral and event-related potential-field evidence, Hämäläinen et al, 2012.

[8] Modelling relations between sensory processing, speech perception, orthographic and phonological ability, and literacy achievement (Boets et al, 2008)

[9] The ability to move a beat is linked to the consistency of neural responses to sound, Tierney and Kraus, 2013

[10] Awareness of rhythm patterns in speech and music in children with specific language impairments, Cumming et al, 2015

[11] The effects of musical training on structural brain development : a longitudinal study, Hyde et al, 2012.

[12] Cortical plasticity induced by short-term unimodal and multimodal musical training, Lappe et al, 2008

[13] Music and dyslexia : A new musical training method to improve reading and related disorders. Habib 2016.

[14] Rhythmic auditory stimulation influences syntactic processing in children with developmental language disorders, Przybylski et al, 2013

[15] Rhythm perception and production predict reading abilities in developmental dyslexia (Flaugnacco et al)

[16] Singing abilities in children with SLI, Clément et al, 2015)