Review article 43
© 2015 Advanced Arab Academy of Audio-Vestibulogy Journal | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow DOI: 10.4103/2314-8667.171513
Roadmap of review
Knowledge of music
Music is recognized as a universal characteristic in all
human societies, both past and present. Cross-cultural
evidence showed the innateness of music and certain
characteristics of music, such as interval scales, are
universal regardless of the musical genre or style [1,2].
Some acoustic stimuli are considered as music by
most members of a given culture, even if these sounds
have never been heard before; conversely, there are
acoustic stimuli that humans recognize as nonmusical
or dissonant . erefore, even if a particular melody
has never been heard, a dissonant tone may be detected
on the basis of an internal musical representation. is
representation may correspond to a neural template
hardwired in the brain or may become automatic
secondary to implicit neuronal models that develop
from exposure to music in the environment .
Neuroplasticity in musicians
Neuroplasticity refers to any change or modi cation in
the central nervous system because of any adaptation or
experience to environmental demands. Neuroplasticity
denotes changes at the functional or structural level
and at either the system or cellular level. Modi cation
of gross anatomy of the brain, structural changes in
individual brain cells, and reorganization of the neural
network that subserve complex cognitive processes are
the examples of neuroplasticity .
Music demands cognitive and neural challenges that
need precise and accurate timing of many actions, exact
interval control of pitch not involved in language, and
various di erent way of producing sound. Enhanced
auditory perception in musicians is likely to result
from auditory perceptual learning during several years
of training and practice. Previous studies, including
that conducted by Kleim and Jones (2008) , showed
plasticity dependent on experience; Green and Bavelier
(2008)  explained some of the prerequisites for
inducing neuroplasticity, which include complexity,
intensity, repetition, and frequency of training. Most
trained, professional, and experienced musicians are
involved in intensive music training and practice
for many years to attain a high level of expertise.
us, musicians can be considered the best group for
conducting research that shows changes or modi cation
in brain structures and functions across multiple
information processing systems. Schneider et al. ,
in 2002, reported that both the neurophysiology and
morphology of Heschl’s gyrus have a strong e ect on
musical aptitude. A similar study conducted by Ragert
et al.  in 2004 on pianists revealed that despite the
high-level performance in pianists, the e ect of Hebbian
learning was more in musicians than in controls, which
showed stronger capability for plastic reorganization
and points to enhanced learning abilities implicating a
form of meta-plasticity in professional pianists.
Hoenig and colleagues in 2011 reported, using
functional MRI, that conceptual processing of
visually presented musical instruments activates
auditory association cortex encompassing adjacent
areas in the superior temporal sulcus, as well as right
posterior superior temporal gyrus and the upper part
of middle temporal gyrus, only in musicians, but
Neuroplastic changes in musician’s brain: a review
Himanshu Kumar Sanju
Neuroplasticity refers to any change or modiﬁ cation in the central nervous system because
of any adaptation or experience to environmental demands. Musical training and experience
can lead to neuroplasticity because music requires cognitive and neural challenges that need
accurate and precise timing of many actions, exact interval control of pitch not involved in
language, and various different way of producing sound. It was also reported that a musician’s
brain is best to study neuroplastic changes. Therefore, the current review explored studies
related to neuroplasticity in musicians’ brains. Various database such as Medline, PubMed,
Google, and Google Scholar were searched for the reference to neuroplasticity in musicians.
musician, plasticity, central nervous system
© 2015 Advanced Arab Academy of Audiovestibulogy
Department of Audiology & Vestibular
Disorders, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo
University, Cairo, Egypt
Correspondence to Himanshu Kumar Sanju,
(PG in Audiology), Research Ofﬁ cer, All India
Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysuru-6,
Mob: +91-7406093279, +91-8123186203,
Received 03 November 2015
Accepted 09 November 2015
Advanced Arab Academy
of Audiovestibulogy 2015, 02:43–44
This is an open access arƟ cle distributed under the terms of the CreaƟ ve
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44 Advanced Arab Academy of Audiovestibulogy 2015, Vol 2 No 2
similar activation was absent in nonmusicians. Hence,
intensive experience and training of musicians with a
variety of musical instruments provide a connection
between conceptual brain systems and auditory
perceptual skills . A voxel-based morphometric
study conducted by Abdul-Kareem et al. in 2011
showed signi cantly increased grey matter volume in
musicians compared with nonmusicians.
Results were positively correlated with the years
of experience of music. is study also showed the
change due to musical training in middle and superior
cerebellar peduncle in trained musicians. e result
revealed that musicians have signi cantly larger right
superior cerebellar peduncle volume and number of
streamlines, right middle cerebellar peduncle volume
and total white matter volume of the right cerebellum.
ey also observed that musicians signi cantly show
larger weighted clustering coe cient in the right
olfactory cortex, the left supramarginal gyrus, the right
gyrus rectus, the left medial superior frontal gyrus, the
left lingual gyrus, and the right pallidum compared
with nonmusicians .
Similarly, Zendel and Alain  in 2012 showed that
musicians experience less age-related degradation
in central auditory processing. Zendel et al.  in
2013 recruited four groups of subjects: children with
congenital hypothyroidism with and without music
training, and healthy control with and without music
training. ey showed that the volume of the right
hippocampus was comparable between children with
congenital hypothyroidism who had taken music
training and the healthy controls. Children with
congenital hypothyroidism who had not taken music
training had reduced hippocampal volumes compared
with the other three groups. ese results suggest that
music training may provide structural neuroplasticity
in children with atypical hippocampal development
because of early thyroid hormone de ciencies.
In 2013, a study conducted by White-Schwoch
et al.  on geriatric patients with a whole life of
music training indicated that a moderate amount
of music training of 4 to 14 years early in life was
associated with faster neural timing in response to
speech later in life, long after training has stopped
(>40 years). is study also showed that early music
training sets the stage for subsequent interactions
with sound and these experiences may interact
over time to sustain sharpened neural processing in
central auditory nuclei well into older age. Bidelman
and Alain in 2015 conducted a study on geriatric
patients with and without modest musical training.
ey recorded both cortical neuroelectric and
brainstem responses in geriatric with and without
modest musical training as these di erentiate speech
sounds as an acoustic-phonetic continuum. Results
revealed that good temporal precision in speech
evoked responses at various levels of the auditory
system in older musicians who were also good at
di erentiating phonetic categories. Older musicians
also showed a closer correspondence between
perceptual performance and neural activity .
Pantev and colleagues in 2015 studied the in uence
of long-term and short-term musical training. ey
showed that long-term musical training is related to a
signi cantly di erent way of processing multisensory
information within the auditory cortex, whereas the
short-term training infers that multisensory music
reading training a ects the multimodal processing
within the auditory cortex .
Financial support and sponsorship
Conﬂ icts of interest
ere are no con icts of interest.
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