fMRI-Compatible Music Piano Keyboard

Participants: Avrum Hollinger
Marcelo M. Wanderley (supervisor)
Christopher Steele
Virginia Penhune (Concordia University)
Robert Zatorre (Montreal Neurological Institute)
Piano keyboard testing in MRI scanner.
Funding: Concordia University (Penhune)
Canadian Foundation for Innovation (Zatorre & Wanderley)
NSERC Discovery Grant (Wanderley)
CIRMMT student funds (Hollinger) 2007-2008
Project Type: Collaborative project (CIRMMT, BRAMS - Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound).
Time Period: 2006– (Ongoing.)

Project Description

This project focuses on the development of electronic piano keyboards that can be used inside MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners. The piano controller allows neuroscientists studying motor learning of musical tasks to perform functional scans of a subject's brain while synchronizing the scanner, auditory and visual stimuli, and auditory feedback with the onset, offset, and velocity of the piano keys. Two versions of the piano have now been built with two full-fledged MRI-studies completed and more in development.

Optical sensing of 1st-generation piano key

2nd-generation MR-compatible piano keyboard during a motion captures study


  • A. Hollinger and M. M. Wanderley. “Optoelectronic Acquisition and Control Board for Musical Applications.” In Proc. of the 2012 International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME12), Ann Harbour, 2012.
  • R. Brown, J. Chen, A. Hollinger, V. Penhune, C. Palmer, and R. Zatorre, “Neurological and behavioral basis for auditory-motor transformations in music performance,” in 11th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, August 2010.
  • Hollinger, A. (2008). Design of fMRI-compatible electronic musical interfaces. M.A. thesis, Music Technology, McGill University, Montreal
  • Avrum Hollinger, Virginia Penhune, Robert Zatorre, Christopher Steele, Marcelo M. Wanderley. "fMRI-Compatible Electronic Controllers." In Proceedings of the 2007 International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME07), New York City, USA, pp. 246-249.