Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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Thursday, 15.11.2012 17 c.t.

Entrainment and the Motor System – Basic Science and Applications to Neurorehabilitation

by Prof. Dr. Michael Thaut
from Colorado State University, USA

Contact person: Theo Geisel


Ludwig Prandtl lecture hall


Entrainment is a universal phenomenon that can be observed in physical (e.g., pendulum clocks) and biological systems (e.g. fire flies) when one system’s motion or signal frequency entrains the frequency of another system. The use of entrainment for therapeutic purposes was established by our research in the early 1990s showing that the periodicity of auditory rhythmic patterns could entrain movement patterns in patients with movement disorders. Physiological, kinematic and behavioral movement analysis showed very quickly that entrainment cues not only changed the timing of movement (e.g., movement speed) but that via temporal regulation also improved spatial and force parameters, e.g., by reducing variability and increasing precision and stability of movement. We know now that anticipatory rhythmic templates are critical coordinative constraints in the brain for optimal motor planning and execution. Research into the mechanisms of rhythmic synchronization has helped elucidate the influence of auditory rhythm on motor control. Rhythmic entrainment is one of the most important underlying mechanisms for the successful application of rhythmic-musical stimuli in motor rehabilitation for movement disorders associated with stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy etc. Most importantly, temporal rhythmic entrainment has been successfully extended into applications in cognitive rehabilitation and speech and language rehabilitation, and thus become one of the major neurological mechanisms linking music and rhythm to brain rehabilitation. Multiple treatment techniques in Neurologic Music Therapy utilize entrainment concepts in sensorimotor, cognitive, and speech/language training.

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