Science Meets Music Features Melodies and Muscle Memories

Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience highlighted the brain’s incredible capacity for musical talent and detailed the scientific basis for what makes the skilled motions of a musician possible.

On Wednesday, March 28, eager guests attending the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI)’s Science Meets Music event gathered in the warm and inviting Benjamin Hall for a night of virtuosic music and scientific discovery. Audience members were dazzled as the internationally renowned pianist, Sofiya Uryvayeva Martin took center stage performing the expressive “Warsaw” Concerto by Addinsell, followed by an exceptional lecture by one of MPFI’s distinguished Research Group Leaders, Dr. Jason Christie.

Sofiya’s precise and agile movements demonstrated the masterful technique of a virtuosic musician and in true Science Meets Music fashion, helped to illustrate the fascinating scientific lecture that followed her stellar performance. The lecture, titled “Muscle Memory: Improving Motor Performance by Training the Brain” was delivered by MPFI’s very own, Dr. Jason Christie, detailing how skilled movements like Sofiya’s are encoded in the brain through the dynamic process of making and correcting mistakes while practicing.

Dr. Christie studies the specialized area of the brain called the cerebellum, which is involved in the coordination of motor movements and the processing of motor learning. In his lecture, he described utilizing cutting-edge techniques to learn more about how specific cells in the brain encode activity patterns that modulate motor performance after we make mistakes. Through his research, Dr. Christie has uncovered a way to coax these activity patterns into the brain to improve motor performance without real life experience. This impactful discovery and basic understanding of the brain, has important implications for the future treatment of those with debilitating motor impairments.

Continuing her impassioned and impressively difficult repertoire, Sofiya closed out the evening with the ever popular “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin and “My True Love” from the romantic composition, “Gone With the Wind” by Steiner.

Before drawing the curtain for the season, the final performance of “Science Meets Music” will return to Benjamin Hall on April 18 and present Manfred Gahr, Ph.D., Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Dr. Gahr’s presentation entitled “Seasonal Singing of Birds: From Gonads to the Brain,” will focus on the neural circuits that are important for song production and mate choice. Dr. Gahr will be joined by the Palm Beach Symphony Chamber Ensemble. All events of the series take place at Benjamin Hall at The Benjamin Upper School, located at 4875 Grandiflora Road, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the presentation and music performances begin at 6:15 p.m. Science Meets Music is a free event; however, seating is limited, and reservations are required. For more information, or to RSVP, please call 561-972-9027 or visit https://mpfi.org/rsvpsmm.