Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 203, Issue 4, pp 737–741 | Cite as

Sensorimotor adaptation is influenced by background music

Research Article


It is well established that listening to music can modify subjects’ cognitive performance. The present study evaluates whether this so-called Mozart Effect extends beyond cognitive tasks and includes sensorimotor adaptation. Three subject groups listened to musical pieces that in the author’s judgment were serene, neutral, or sad, respectively. This judgment was confirmed by the subjects’ introspective reports. While listening to music, subjects engaged in a pointing task that required them to adapt to rotated visual feedback. All three groups adapted successfully, but the speed and magnitude of adaptive improvement was more pronounced with serene music than with the other two music types. In contrast, aftereffects upon restoration of normal feedback were independent of music type. These findings support the existence of a “Mozart effect” for strategic movement control, but not for adaptive recalibration. Possibly, listening to music modifies neural activity in an intertwined cognitive–emotional network.


Motor learning Cognition Recalibration Affect Mood Visuomotor 



This work was supported by the German Research Association (DFG-grant Bo 649/8-5). Thanks are due to T. Düwelhenke for performing and to Dipl.-Sportwiss. S. Werner for supervising data collection and analysis.


  1. Anderson A, Phelps E (2001) Lesions of the human amygdala impair enhanced perception of emotionally salient events. Nature 411:305–309CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bechara A et al (2000) Emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cereb Cortex 10:295–307CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bock O (2005) Components of sensorimotor adaptation in young and elderly subjects. Exp Brain Res 160:259–263CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bock O, Girgenrath M (2005) Relationship between sensorimotor adaptation and cognitive functions in younger and older subjects. Exp Brain Res 169:400–406CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Caldwell G, Riby L (2007) The effects of music exposure and own genre preference on conscious and unconscious cognitive processes: a pilot ERP study. Consciousness Cognit 16:992–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clower D, Boussaoud D (2000) Selective use of perceptual recalibration versus visuomotor skill acquisition. J Neurophysiol 84:2703–2708PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. de Lange M, van Knippenberg A (2007) Going against the grain: regulatory focus and interference by task-irrelevant information. Exp Psychol 54:6–13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Ekman P, Friesen W (1978) Facial action coding system: a technique for the measurement of facial movement. Consulting Psychologist Press, Palo AltoGoogle Scholar
  9. Eversheim U, Bock O (2001) Evidence for processing stages in skill acquisition: a dual-task study. Learn Mem 8:183–189CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Fernández-Ruiz J et al (2000) Prism adaptation in normal aging: slower adaptation rate and larger aftereffect. Cognit Brain Res 9:223–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fitts P (1964) Perceptual-motor skill learning. In: Melton A (ed) Categories of human learning. Academic Press, New York, pp 243–285Google Scholar
  12. Grecucci A et al (2009) The emotional control of action: ERP evidence. Arch Ital Biol 147:37–49PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenough W et al (1986) Environmental conditions modulate degeneration and new dendrite growth in cerebellum of senescent rats. Brain Res 380:136–143CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Heuer H, Hegele M (2008) Adaptation to visuomotor rotations in younger and older adults. Psychol Aging 23:190–202CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Koechlin E et al (2002) Medial prefrontal and subcortical mechanisms underlying the acquisition of motor and cognitive action sequences in humans. Neuron 35:371–381CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Kreutz G et al (2008) Using music to induce emotions: influences of musical preference and absorption. Psychol Music 36:101–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Maxeiner J (2004) Emotion und sportliche Leistung. In: SaarbrückenGoogle Scholar
  18. McNay EC, Willingham DB (1998) Deficit in learning of a motor skill requiring strategy, but not of perceptualmotor recalibration, with aging. Learn Mem 4:411–420CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Pessoa L (2008) On the relationship between emotion and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci 9:148–158CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Phelps E (2006) Emotion and cognition: insights from studies of the human amygdala. Annu Rev Psychol 57:27–53CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Rauscher F et al (1993) Music and spatial task performance. Nature 365:61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Redding G, Wallace B (1996) Adaptive spatial alignment and strategic perceptual-motor control. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 22:379–394CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Redding GM et al (1992) Cognitive load and prism adaptation. J Motor Behav 24:238–246Google Scholar
  24. Reinmann-Rothmeier G (2003) Die vergessenen Weggefährten des Lernens: Herleitung eines Forschungsprogramms zu Emotionen beim E-Learning. In: Arbeitsberichte der Philosophisch-Sozialwissenschaftlichen Fakultät. Universität Augsburg, AugsburgGoogle Scholar
  25. Rickard N et al (2005) The effect of music on cognitive performance: insight from neurobiological and animal studies. Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev 4:235–261CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Rogan M et al (1997) Fear conditioning induces associative long-term potentiation in the amygdala. Nature 390:604–607CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Rondi-Reig L et al. (1999) Cerebellar functions: a behavioral neurogenetic perspective. In: Jones B (ed) Neurobehavioral genetics: methods and applicationsGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosenzweig M, Bennett E (1996) Psychobiology of plasticity: effects of training and experience on brain and behavior. Behav Brain Res 76:57–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schumacher R et al. (2006) Macht Mozart schlau? Die Förderung kognitiver Kompetenzen durch Musik. In: Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, B.f.B.u.F.B.R. (ed) Bildungsforschung, vol 18, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  30. Schupp H et al (2006) Emotion and attention: event-related brain potential studies. Prog Brain Res 156:31–51CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Segerstrom S (2001) Optimism and attentional bias for negative and positive stimuli. Psychol Bull 27:1334–1343Google Scholar
  32. Shaver P et al (1987) Emotion knowledge: further explorations of a prototype approach. J Pers Soc Psychol 52:1061–1086CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Taylor J, Thoroughman K (2008) Motor adaptation scaled by the difficulty of a secondary cognitive task. PLoS ONE 3. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002485
  34. Thompson W et al (2001) Arousal, mood, and the Mozart effect. Psychol Sci 12:248–251CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Werner S, Bock O (2007) Effects of variable practice and declarative knowledge on sensorimotor adaptation to rotated visual feedback. Exp Brain Res 178:554–559CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Werner S et al. (2009) Visuomotor adaptive improvement and aftereffects are impaired differentially following cerebellar lesions in SCA and PICA territory. Exp Brain Res. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-2052-6

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Physiology and AnatomyGerman Sport UniversityCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations