Music, Maestro, Please: Thalamic multisensory integration in music perception, processing and production

Artur Jaschke


Music activates a wide array of brain areas involved in different functions such as   perception, processing and execution of music. Understanding musical processes in the brain has multiple implications in the neuro- and health sciences. 
Challenging the brain with a multisensory stimulus such as music activates responses beyond the auditory cortex of the temporal lobe. Other areas that are involved include the frontal lobes, parietal lobes, areas of the limbic system such as the amygdala, hippocampus and thalamus, the cerebellum and the brainstem. Nonetheless, there has been no attempt to summarize all involved brain areas in music into one overall encompassing map. This may well be, as there has been no thorough theory introduced, which would allow an initial point of departure in creating such a map

Therefore, a thorough systematic review has been conducted to identify all mentioned neural connections involved in the perception, processing and execution of music. 
Communication between the thalamic nuclei is the initial step in multisensory integration, which lies at the base of the neural networks as proposed in this paper. Against this background, this manuscript introduces the to our knowledge first map of all brain regions involved in the perception, processing and execution of music.

Consequently, placing thalamic multisensory integration at the core of this atlas allowed us to create a preliminary theory to explain the complexity of music induced brain activation.

Full Text:

 Subscribers Only



Alluri, V., Toiviainen, P., Jääskeläinen, I. P., Glerean, E., Sams, M. and Brattico, E., Large-scale brain networks emerge from dynamic processing of musical timbre, key and rhythm, NeuroImage 59, pp 3677-3689, (2012)

Schlaug, G., Jancke, L., Huang, Y., Staiger, J.F., & Steinmetz, H., Increased corpus callosum size in musicians, Neuropsychologia, 33, pp 1047-1055, (1995a)

Schlaug, G., Jancke, L., Huang, Y., & Steinmetz, H., In Vivo evidence of structural brain asymmetry in musicians, Science, 267, pp 699-701, (1995b)

Norton, A., Winner, E., Cronin, K., Overy, K. Dennis J. Lee and Schlaug, G. (2005), Are there pre-existing neural, cognitive, or motoric markers for musical ability?, Brain and Cognition, 59, pp 124-134

Kraus N and Chandrasekaran B. (2010), Music training for the development of auditory skills. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 11:599-605

Strait DL, Kraus N. (2011b), Playing Music for a Smarter Ear: Cognitive, Perceptual and Neurobiological Evidence. Music Perception. 29(2): pp 133-146.

Koelsch, S. (2012), Brain and Music, Oxford: Wiley and Blackwell

Rose, F. C. ed. (2010), The Neurology of Music, London: Imperial College Press

Strait D.L., Chan K., Ashley R. & Kraus, N., (2012), Specialization among the specialized: auditory brainstem function is tuned in to timbre. Cortex. 48, pp 360-362.

Zatorre, R. J., Salimpoor, V. N., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., Benovoy, M.(2011), Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to Music, Nature American Neuroscience 1/11

Wan, C. Y. and Schlaug, G. (2010), Music making as a tool for promoting brain plasticity across the life span, The Neuroscientist, 16(5), pp 566-577

Dreu, M.J., van der Wilk, A.S.D., Poppe, E., Kwakkel, G. & van Wegen E.E.H., (2012), Rehabilitation, exercise therapy and music in patients with Parkinson’s disease: a meta-analysis of the effects of music-based movement therapy on walking ability, balance and quality of life, Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 18(1), pp 114-119

Gepner, B & Feron, F. (2009), Autism: A world changing too fast for a mis-wired brain?, Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 33, pp1227-1242

Peretz, J. M., Gonzalez, P. M., Comi, M. L., & Nieto, C. eds (2007), New Developments in Autism: The future is today, London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Rauschecker, J.P., (2006), Cortical Plasticity and Music, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 930, pp 330-336

Särkämö, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, Soinila, S., Mikkinen, M., Autti, T., Silvennoinen, H.M., Erkkilä, J., Laine, M., Peretz, I. & Hietanan, M., (2008), Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke, Brain, 131, pp 866-876

Kay, B. P., Meng, X., DiFrancesco, M.W., Holland, S.K. & Szaflarski, J.P., (2012), Moderating effects of music on resting state networks, Brain Research, 1447, pp 53-64

Overy, K., Norton, A.C., Cronin, K.T, Gaab, N., Alsop, D.C., Winner, E. & Schlaug, G. (2004), Imaging melody and rhythm processing in young children, NeuroReport, 15(11), pp 1723-1726

Hickok, G, Buchsbaum, B, Humphries, C, & Muftuler, T., (2003), Auditory-Motor Interaction Revealed by fMRI: Speech, Muisc and Working Memory in Area Spt, Journal of cognitive Neuroscience, 15(5), pp 673-682

Altenmüller, E. & Schlaug, G. (2012), Music, Brain and Health: Exploring Biological Foundations of Music’s health Effects, in MacDonald, Kreutz & Mitchell eds., Music Health and Wellbeing, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press

Blood, A. J. & Zatorre, R. J. (2001), Intensely pleasurable responses to Music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotions, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98, 11818-11823

Lee, H.L. & Noppeney, U., (2011), Long-termmusic training tunes how the brain temporally binds signals from multiple senses, PNAS, 108(51), pp 1441-1450

Sherman, S.M. & Guillery, R.W. (2006), Exploring the Thalamus and its role in cortical functions, Massachusetts: MIT Press

Sherman, S.M. & Guillery, R.W. (2006), Functional Connection of Cortical Areas; A new view from the Thalamus, Massachusetts: MIT Press

Bonath, B., Tyll, S., Budinger, E., Krauel, K., Hopf, J-M. & Noesselt, T. (in press, 2012), Task-demands and audio-visual stimulus configurations modulate neural activity in the human thalamus, NeuroImage

Cappe, C, Rouiller, E.M. & Barone, P. (2012), Cortical and Thalamic Pathways for Multisensory and Sensorimotor interplay, Chapter 2 in Murray MM, Wallace MT eds., The Neural Basis of Multisensory Processes (2012). Boca Raton: CRC Press

Murray M.M., Wallace M.T. eds., (2012), The Neural Basis of Multisensory Processes. Boca Raton: CRC Press

Oechslin, M.S., Imfeld, A., Loenneker, T., Meyer, M. & Jäncke, L. (2010), The plasticity of the superior longitudinal fasciculus as a function of musical expertise: a diffusion tensor imaging study, Frontiers in Neuroscience, 3, pp 1 – 12

Wan, C.Y. & Schlaug, G. (2010), Neural Pathways for language in autism: potential for music-based treatments, Future Neurology, 5(6), pp 797 – 805

Wang, Y., Celebrini, S., Trotter, Y. & Barone, P., (2008), Visuo-auditory interactions in the primary visual cortex of the begaving rhesus monkey: Electrophysiological Evidence.BMC Neuroscience, 9(79), PMC free article: PMC2527609

Cappe, C., Morel, A., Barone, P. & Rouiller, E.M., (2009), The thalamocortical projection systems in primates: An anatomical support for multisensory and sensorimotor integrations, Cerebral Cortex, 19, pp 2025 –

Janata, P., (2009), The Neural Architecture of Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories, Cerebral Cortex, 9(11).

Blumenfeld, H., (2010) Neuroanatomy through Clinical Cases, 2nd Edition, Sinauer Associates Publishers, Sunderland, Massachusetts.

Zatorre R.J. & Salimpoor V. N., (2013), From perception to pleasure: Music and its neural substrates, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2 (110).

Konig, R., Heil, P., Budinger, E. & Scheich, H., eds. (2015), The Auditory Cortex; A synthesis of human and animal research, Oxford: Psychology Press

Brown, J. C. (1992), Musical fundamental frequency tracking using a pattern recognition method, Journal of the acoustical society of America, 92 (1394).

Limb, C. J. & Braun, A. R. (2008), Neural Substrates of spontaneous

musical performance: an fMRI study of jazz improvisation, PLoS ONE 3: pp 1-15

Edelman, G. M., (1978), Neural Darwinism, The theory of Neural Group Selection, Basic Books

Jaschke, A. C., Eggermont, L. H. P., Honing, H. & Scherder, E. J. A., (2013), Music education and its effect on intellectual abilities in children: a systematic review. 24(6)

Edelman, G. M. (2000), BBC Radio 4, In our Time Imagination and Consciousness, Thursday, 29 June

Musacchia, G. & Schroeder, C. E., (2009), Neural mechanisms, response dynamics and perceptual functions of multisensory interactions in auditory cortex, Hearing Research, 258, 72 - 79

Kok, M. & Lomber, S. Origin of the thalamic projection to dorsal auditory cortex hearing and deafness, Hearing Research 343, 108 -117

Zbikowski, A (2002), Music Perception, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Patel, A. D. (2007), Language, music, and the brain: a resourcesharing framework, in Language and Music as Cognitive Systems, P. Rebuschat, M. Rohrmeier, J. Hawkins & I. Cross (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press

Patel, A.D. (2012) Language, Music and the brain: a resource sharing framework. Language and Music as cognitive systems. Oxford University Press.

Slevec, L.R. & Okada, B.M. (2015), Processing structure in language and music: a case of shared reliance in cognitive control, Psychon Bull Rev. 2015 Jun;22(3):637-52

Honing, H., ten Cate, C., Peretz, I., & Trehub, S. (2015). Without it no music: Cognition, biology, and evolution of musicality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664)

Klein, C., Liem, F., Hänggi, J., Elmer, S., Jäncke, L., (2016) The “silent” imprint of musical training, Human Brain mapping, Vol 37 (2).


  • There are currently no refbacks.

by The International Association for Music & Medicine