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Music is becoming more and more of an issue in the cognitive neurosciences. A major finding in this research area is that musical practice is associated with structural and functional plasticity of the brain. In this brief review, I will give an overview of the most recent findings of this research area.
Music drives brain plasticity
Lutz Jäncke
Address: Division of Neuropsychology, Psychological Institute, University of Zurich, Binzmühlestrasse 14, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland
F1000 Biology Reports 2009, 1:78 (doi:10.3410/B1-78)
The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found at:
Music is becoming more and more of an issue in the cognitive neurosciences. A major finding in this
research area is that musical practice is associated with structural and functional plasticity of the
brain. In this brief review, I will give an overview of the most recent findings of this research area.
Introduction and context
Professional musicians have been used over the last
15 years as a model for brain plasticity [1,2]. Why are
musicians so interesting for plasticity research? First of
all, they are experts in playing musical instruments. To
play the demanding two three-second segments of the
11th variation from the sixth Paganini Etude by Franz
Liszt, for example, requires the production of 30 notes
per second. A tremendous amount of training is needed
to achieve this kind of finger speed . Ericsson and
colleagues [3] were among the first to show how much
professional musicians do in fact practice. The authors
showed that professional pianists and violinists practice
for 7,500 hours before reaching the age of 18 years,
whereas music teachers can look back on a total practice
time of approximately 3,500 hours. This differen ce was
unaffected by the quality of musical education since all
musicians in this study had graduated from the
prestigious Berlin Academy of Music. Thus, the amount
of practice is one of the most important factors
influencing musical expertise, at least in terms of the
skill required to play a musical instrument. If musicians
practice that much, it is hypothesised, they should show
some kind of neuroanatomical and neurophysiological
adaptations. P rofessional, semi-professional, and
non-professional musicians have no w been studied
extensively in terms of the neuroanatomical and
neurophysiological underpinnings of their expertise. In
principle, three different approaches to studying plastic
processes in musicians are possible: (a) Th e first
approach is cross-sectional in nature and mostly employs
quasi-experimental designs (post-test-only designs with
non-equivalent groups in the terminology of Cook and
Campbell [4]). With this design, musicians and non-
musicians are studied at the same point in time in
terms of anatomical or functional brain measures. This
approach has been widely used because it is relatively
easy to collect the data. Differences between both groups
are attributed mostly to the different learning histories of
musicians and non-musicians. However, the interpreta-
tion of these data is limited since this approach does not
allow the inference of strong causation because it cannot
be ruled out that selection differences between the two
groups or the different treatments (here, music lessons)
are responsible for the results. To enhance the interpret-
ability of such design s, several research groups have
employed pretest measures related to musical expertise
to control for pretest between-group differences. This
design, which is called the untreated control group
design with proxy pretest measures [4], allows stronger
causation about the influence of musical training. (b)
The second approa ch used in this research context
consists of short-term longitudinal studies in which
subjects have undergone a specific training intervention.
These studies are typically designed according to a pre-
post design, and the subjects are enrolled in training
programs lasting from several hours to several months.
(c) Finally, long-term longitudinal studies in which
subjects have undergone a longer (at least a period of
years) training are also used. Longitudinal studies are
more co mplicated in terms o f organisation of the
experiments, they take longer, and they are more
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expensive. In addition, longitudinal studies are repeated
measurements studies, implying some methodological
problems (for example, unwanted practice effects). To
understand the influence of music practice on brain
plasticity more precisely, it is necessary to combine these
different approaches.
A general finding of the studies published thus far is that
nearly all of those brain areas involved in the control of
musical expertise (motor cortex, auditory cortex, cerebel-
lum, and other areas) show specific anatomical and
functional features in professional and semi-professional
musicians. In the following, I will review most of the
recent papers (after 2002) supporting the idea of brain
plasticity driven by musical expertise and musical training.
Major recent advances
Structural brain plasticity
Recently, Hyde and colleagues [5] published a paper
strongly supporting the idea of use-dependent brain
plasticity driven by musical training. In summary, this
study demonstrates that 6-year-old children receiving
instrumental musical training for 15 months (compared
with children receiving non-musical training) not only
learned to play their musical instrument but also showed
changed anatomical features in brain areas known to be
involved in the control of playing a musical instrument.
Most of these brain areas are part of the cortical motor
system, but there were also structural changes in the
auditory system and in the corpus callosum. This is the
first longitudinal study demonstrating brain plasticity in
children in the context of learning a musical instrument.
Although longitudinal studies are the gold standard in
plasticity research, several cross-sectional studies demon-
strating specific anatomical features in musicians have
recently been published. For example, Bangert and
Schlaug [6] reported that pianists atypically showed the
omega sign (indicative of a larger hand motor area) on
both hemispheres, where as violinists showed the omega
sign on only the right hemisphere controlling the left
hand. This specific anatomical feature is possibly related
to the fact that pianists practice a lot with both hands,
whereas violinists practice a lot with their left hand
(manipulating the strings) and the ir right arm (manip-
ulating the bow). Thus, violinists might drive only the
right-sided hand motor area, whereas pianists drive the
hand motor areas on both hemispheres. This interesting
finding is in strong concordance with older studies
reporting specific anatomical features in the hand motor
area in pianists and violinists [7,8].
Using a voxel-based morphometry approach, Gaser and
Schlaug [9] identified grey matter volume differences in
motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when
comparing professional musicians (keyboard players in
this study) with a matched group of amateur musicians
and non-musicians. Most interestingly, they found a
strong association between structural differences (grey
matter density), musician status, and practice intensity,
supporting the view that practice (in this case, practicing
to play a musical instrument) has an impact on brain
anatomy. Increased grey matter density (and volume) is
currently taken as evidence of an increase in capillary
density as well as smaller changes in synapse and glial
cell density . Thus, these changes might reflect neuroana-
tomical adaptations in order to improve the cognitive
and motor functions controlled by these particular brain
Most recently, a Swedish group used diffusion tensor
imaging (D TI) to measure the integrity of fiber tracts
(association fibers and commissures) in eight profes-
sional pianists and found a strong positive co rrelation
between the measure of fractional anisotropy (FA)
(indicating the integrity of the fiber system) and time
spent practicing the piano [10,11]. Thus, the pianists
who practi ced more often showed higher FA values
(indicating a higher integrity of the fiber system). This
finding is of outstanding importance because it brings to
light morphometric differences even within a highly
specialised group of skilled pianists and indicates that
these differences are due to practice time (specialisation
of the specialised). In 2002, Schneider and colleagues
[12], of Heidelberg, Germany, reported a remarkable
anatomical finding in musicians. Using magnetoence-
phalography (MEG) and sophisticated anatomical
analyses, the authors found neurophysiological and
anatomical differences between musicians and non-
musicians. First, the neurophysiological activity in the
primary auditory cortex 19-30 ms after tone onset was
more than 100% larger. In addition, the grey matter
volume of the anteromedial part of Heschls gyrus
(which covers most of the primary auditory cortex) was
130% larger in musicians. Both measures were also
highly correlated with musical aptitude. This study is one
of the first to indicate that both the morphology and
neurophysiology of Heschls gyrus have an essential
influence on musical aptitude [12]. The second paper of
the same group was even more spectacular [13]. In this
paper, they found a strong relationship between the
strategy used in processing complex tones and anatomi-
cal features in the primary auditory cortex. Professional
musicians who preferentially analyse the fundamental
pitch (the fundamental tone, abbreviated f0 or F0, is the
lowest frequency in a harmonic series) of complex tones
were found to have a leftward asymmetry of grey matter
volume in Heschls gyrus, whereas those who prefer to
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F1000 Biology Reports 2009, 1:78
analyse the spectral pitch of complex tones show a
rightward asymmetry of grey matter volume of Heschls
gyrus. Thus, a marked anatomical feature of the auditory
system correlated with a particular tone-processing
strategy within a group of professional musicians.
Patricia Sluming and colleagues [14], of Liverpool, UK,
published a paper in which they reported anatomical
differences in Brocas area between musicians and non-
musicians. In particular, the authors reported increased
grey matter in Brocas area in the left inferior frontal
gyrus in musicians. In addition, they obse rved significant
age-related volume reduction s in cerebral hemispheres,
dorsolateral prefrontal cortex bilaterally, and grey matter
density in the left inferior frontal gyrus in controls but
not in musicians! In other words, musicians showed no
or a smaller decrease in grey matter density in the frontal
cortex compared with non-musicians with increasing
age. (This is very important for aging research since the
volume of the frontal cortex has been shown to correlate
negatively with age [15,16].) This anatomical study
suggests that orchestral musical performance might
promote use-dependent retention, and possibly expan-
sion, of grey matter within Brocas area (a brain area that
is responsible for speech production, language proces-
sing, and language comprehension as well as controlling
facial neurons; it is named after Pierre Paul Broca, who
discovered the area after studying the postmortem brain
of a patient with a speech impairment). In addition, this
study emphasises the significant point that shared neural
networks (within Brocas area) are involved in the
control of language and music. In a more recent study,
the same group showed that Brocas area is also involved
in the control of mental rotation, but only in musicians
[17]. They relate this extraordinary finding to the sight-
reading skills of musicians. In sight reading, visuospatial
cognition is related to some ki nd of language decoding.
Brocas area might be involved in the control of this
specific inter-relationship.
The most recent study to use DTI techniques was
published by Imfeld et al. [18]. These authors measu red
the training effects on FA in the corticosp inal tract (CST)
of professional musicians and co ntrol non-musicians
and found significantly lower FA values in both the left
and the right CST in the musician group. Diffusivity, a
parameter indicating the amount of water that diffuses
along and across the axon, was negatively correlated with
the onset of musical training in childhood in the
musician group. A subsequently performed median
split into an early- and a late-onset musician group
(median of 7 years) revealed increased diffusivity in the
CST of the early-onset group as compared with both the
late-onset group and the controls. In conclusion, DTI was
successfully applied in revealing plastic changes in white
matter arc hitecture of the CST in professional musicians.
The present results challenge the notion that increased
myelination induced by sensorimotor practice leads to
an increase in FA, as has been sugg ested previously.
Instead, training- induced changes in diffusion character-
istics of the axonal membrane may lead to increased
radial diffusivity reflected in decreased FA values.
However, this issue deserves more intensiv e discussion
about the methodological aspects associated with FA and
diffusivity measurements.
Functional brain plasticity
Besides the above-mentioned specific anatomical fea-
tures in musicians, several recent (and older) studies
have shown specific neurophysiological adaptations.
Recently, Lappe et al. [19] dem onstrated particular
changes with respect to the neurophysiological responses
of the auditory cortex in non-musicians who trained for
2 weeks to play the piano. These authors randomly
assigned subjects to one of two groups: one group
learned to play a musical sequence on the piano, whereas
the control group listened to the music that had been
played by the other group. The authors demonstrated
training-induced cortical plasticity using the musically
elicited mismatch negativity (MMNm) from MEG
measurements before and after training. The MMNm
is a neurophysiological response reflecting the pre-
attentive processing of auditory stimuli [20,21].
The subjects who learned to play piano showed
significant enlargement of MMNm after training com-
pared with the group who only listened to the music.
Thus, practicing to play the piano improves not only
hand motor skills but also the auditor y representation of
the musical tones that are generated by the pi ano keys.
Thus, a strong crossmodal link between motor com-
mands and the representation of auditory information is
established, causing a stronger representation of musical
information in the auditory cortex. Several years ago,
Bangert and Altenmüller [22] demonstrated a similar
finding using electroencephalogaphy (EEG). They iden-
tified changed activations in frontal brain regions of
subjects who had just 20 minutes of piano training, but
only in the learning conditions during which the subjects
could easily associate a particular piano key with a note.
In situations during which this association was random,
there was no cortical crossmodal plasticity. Effects of
training have also been shown to be instrument-specific
[23-25], and the EEG responses of children taking music
lessons have been shown to change differently over the
course of a year compared with those of children not
studying music [26]. Thus, in summary, musicians or
musically experienced subjects respond differently to
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F1000 Biology Reports 2009, 1:78
musical stimuli even if top-down factors like attention
are controlled for [27]. There is also ample evidence of
change in the auditory system due to musical practice
and in the entire sensorimotor system [28-32].
Interestingly, most of the recent findings indicate that
even neurophysiological responses at the level of the
brainstem are dependent on experie nce-dependent
influences. Neural activity generated from the brainstem
can be measured using frequency following responses
(FFRs). The FFR is an electrophysiological scalp-recorded
electrical response that reflects processing stages of
auditory information at the level of the brainstem.
Specifically, Wong et al. [33] first showed music-related
plasticity in FFRs elicited by speech. Later, Musacchia
et al. [34] found that musicians had more robust FFRs to
auditory and audiovisual speech and music sounds. The
latter study also strengthened the notion that musical
experience shapes not only auditory processing but
multisensory mechanisms as well. However, both studies
indicate that playing music enhances the fidelity of the
earliest stage of auditory response, not only to musical
stimuli but also to speech and multi sensory cues.
More recently, Krishnan et al. [35] analysed the FFRs
from Chinese and English subjects in response to four
Mandarin tonal contours presente d in a non-speech
context. The FFR analysis revealed that the Chinese group
exhibited st ronger representati on of multiple pitch-
relevant harmonics relative to the English group across
all four tones. The authors concluded that long-term
experience (here, experience with Mandarin) enhanced
the sensitivity to linguistically relevant variations in
pitch. Thus, specific language experience changes the FFR
in a manner similar to that of music experience.
Future directions
The preceding findings give rise to the question of
whether there is transfer from musical to non-musical
skills. A well-trained auditory system might support the
perception of auditory speech information and thus
auditory speech information might be processed more
efficiently. In addition, when learning to play a musical
instrument, the trainee also practices attention, planning
functions, memory, and self-discipline. It is thus
hypothesised that musical experience would positively
influence executive functions, lan guage functions, or
even intelligence in general. Several recently published
papers are in line with this hypothesis. For example, one
paper demonstrates that extended musical experience
enhances executive control on a non-verbal spatial task
and auditory tasks [36]. Glenn Schellenberg [37]
uncovered a greater IQ increase in children enrolled in
music classes compared with well-matched children who
received no musical lessons, and Ho et al. [38] uncovered
an enhancement of verbal memory skills (but not visual
memory skills) in children enrolled in musical lessons.
There is therefore mounting evidence on the behavioural
level of positive transfer from musical expertise to non-
musical domains. Recen tly, Moreno et al. [39] estab-
lished that musical training (not longer than 6 months)
improves non-musical functions such as reading and
linguistic perception. These non-musical enhancements
are also accompanied by changed cortical activation
patterns. This study is one of the very few longitudinal
studies to hav e been conducted in the context of musical
If music has such a strong infl uence on brain plasticity,
this raises the question of whether this effect can be used
to enhance brain plasticity and cognitive performance in
general and clinical settings. In a recent single-blind
randomised controlled study, Särkämö et al.[40]
examined whether daily music listening enhances the
recovery of cognitive functions and mood after stroke.
This study demonstrates that recovery of verbal memory
and focused attention improved significantly and sub-
stantially in the group of patients who listened to their
favourite music on a daily basis compared with patients
who listened to audio books or received no listening
material. Besides the cognitive improvement in the
context of listening to music, there was a substantial
mood improvement in the patients who listened to
music. Thus, music could be used as a non-i nvasive tool
for neuropsychological and neurological therapies. In
addition, musical elements could be used to improve
specific cognitive functions for which positive transfer
effects have been demonstrated. For exam ple, reading
and writing skills as well as memory function s are
possible candidates for functions that might benefit from
musical training elements. Recent evidence shows that
writing and reading can be improved when dyslexic
children learn to associate graphemes and phonemes
with musical notes [41] and that many memory
elements are linked to music [42,43]. Hopefully, the
current trend in the use of musicians as a model for brain
plasticity will continue in future experiments and extend
to the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation.
CST, corticospinal tract; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging;
EEG, electroencephalogaphy; FA, fractional ani sotropy;
FFR, frequency following response; MEG, magnetoence-
phalography; MMNm, musically el icited mismat ch
Competing interests
The author declares that he has no compe ting interests.
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... Based on interview responses from this study, the use of external distraction (i.e., instrumental music) as a distraction masker is a new strategy that may support persons with TBI and RTW. These findings are similar to previous research in the areas of neuroplasticity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism identifying external distractions as a tool for cognition [44][45][46][47][48][49] . However, the translation of how to utilize distractions in clinical practice is unknown. ...
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Persons with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) who return to work often struggle with managing environmental distractions due to residual cognitive impairments. Previous literature has established that environmental distractions impact persons with TBI, yet, the extent to which distractions impact workplace performance is unknown. This qualitative descriptive study using phenomenology methods, explored the experiences of seven individuals with TBIs and how they perceived workplace distractions to impact their productivity. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews with seven participants who were diagnosed with mild, moderate, and severe TBIs. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Main findings centered around what environmental distractions impacted work performance, the farther-reaching consequences of distractibility, strong emotional feelings and worry about perceived work performance associated with distractibility, mitigating distractibility through “gaming the attentional system”, and utilizing music as a distraction masker to enhance task performance. In light of this study’s findings, researchers, and clinicians are encouraged to consider the wider impact of distractions on persons with TBI. The real-life accounts documented in this study will assist researchers and clinicians to account for the impact of environmental distractions in rehabilitation and support employment for persons with TBI.
... 구의 측두 평면(planum temporale)이 더 크고, 일차 청각 피질 인 Heschl's gyrus 영역과 좌·우반구를 연결하는 신경조직인 뇌 량(corpus callosum)의 회백질이 더 두꺼운 것으로 나타났다 (Jäncke, 2009;Schlaug et al., 1995). 또한 음악가는 새로운 규칙을 갖는 청각 신호가 들어왔을 때에도 이를 이차 청각 피질 에서 처리하는 신경 인코딩(encoding)의 속도가 비음악가보다 더 빠른 것으로 확인되어 (Herholz et al., 2011) (Choi et al., 2017;Yucel et al., 2009 ...
Purpose: The music rehabilitation program (MRP) promotes auditory, language, cognitive, and motor development of the brain. The significance of MRP was studied through mismatch negativity (MMN) and Music Listening Attitude and Satisfaction Questionnaire for hearing loss (MASQ_H). Methods: Fifteen adult cochlear implant (CI) users (34.5 years; standard deviation, ± 11.6) participated. MMN was tested before and after MRP training at the stimulus intensity level of 70 and 100 dB hearing loss (HL). In addition, MASQ_H was utilized. Results: For the pre- and post-tests of MMN, the average amplitudes of the waveforms were -2.48 ± 1.95 µV and -6.11 ± 4.21 µV and the areas were 208.16 ± 211.59 µV·ms and 527.87 ± 360.42 µV·ms with the significant difference when the stimulus level was presented at 70 dB HL. For MASQ_H, 90.9% of the participants responded that they felt satisfied with listening to music using CI or hearing aid. When asked about the musical factors that were improved in the music listening, the ‘pitch perception’ and ‘timbre perception’ were responded showing increased satisfaction rates. Conclusion: This study confirmed that MRP improved language processing by facilitating auditory processing, cognitive ability, and neural plasticity of the central auditory system through the increased amplitude and area of MMN after MRP application. Furthermore, providing a systematic music training such as MRP could change the music listening attitudes and satisfaction of the CI users’. The active implementation of music rehabilitation is strongly suggested.
... Analogously, in the last two decades, researchers emphasize the possible contributing role of executive functions in music education (Vojtech et al., 2019). It is widely accepted that executive functions play a positive role in nearly all cognitive tasks and abilities (Hannon and Trainor, 2007), and playing an instrument involves daily use of selective attention, switching, inhibition, and monitoring which are aspects of executive functions (Jäncke, 2009). The research community argues that children with instrumental music training can steadily and systematically activate executive functions and, in particular, shift, monitoring, and selective attention because of their ability to enable conscious and goal-directed problem solving (Moreno, 2009). ...
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The current study investigated the impact of instrumental music training on reading comprehension, working memory, and executive function in elementary school children in Greece. A series of studies suggested the possibility of a cognitive advantage from instrumental music training. For the purpose of the present study 80, elementary school children were evaluated. The experimental group consisted of 40 students in 5th grade with at least 5 years of music training and the control group consisted of 40 children who did not have any music training. The two groups were examined in working memory measurements of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children (WISC-III; Digit and Forward Digit Recall), in Stoop Test, which is an executive function evaluation and reading comprehension test. The reading ability of both group participants was evaluated with the standardized test in the Greek population Test-A. Children with instrumental music training registered higher performances in reading comprehension tests and all cognitive measurements reflecting a possible cognitive advantage compared to participants without music training. The present results attempt to shed light on the possible link between instrumental music training on cognitive abilities and reading comprehension.
... Results are compatible with Groussard et al. (2014) who highlighted the power of music to increase structural brain changes, hence 'brain maturation'. In thit regard, Jäncke (2009) cuts to the chase: 'Music drives brain plasticity'. ...
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Statements about educational/developmental effects and benefits of Eurhythmics are mostly derived from Jacques-Dalcroze's seminal ideas and associated principles and/or are based on heuristic considerations. The present paper explores Eurhythmics from a neuroscientific perspective and suggests hence a complementary theoretical framework. Focusing on music and body movement, this involves particularly (i) neuroplasticity as an underlying mechanism of learning and personal growth, (ii) the Default Mode Network (DFM) as a neural basis of creativity and self-reference, (iii) epigenetics as (the study of) modalities to influence gene-expression by cultural activities, (iv) the reward system as a Eurhythmic-sensitive structure that generates pleasure and positive emotional traits, (v) neuroaesthetics as a scientific way to explore the experience of beauty, and (vi) quantum consciousness as the most profound fusion of music and mind. Taking these aspects into account, the article points out that they only serve as an epistemological means to better understand central-nervous processes of Eurythmics, but and does not jeopardise the pole position of artistic activities that form the intangible core of this school of thought.
... Interestingly, musical training is one such model to study neural plasticity [29,30], since playing a musical instrument involves the partition of several-perfectly tuned-sensory systems. Musical training constitutes a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity [31,32] and enculturation [33]. As musical expertise requires long-term training, several studies use a cross-sectional approach, comparing musicians to non-musicians, providing indices of training-induced plasticity [29]. ...
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Quantity estimation can be represented in either an analog or symbolic manner and recent evidence now suggests that analog and symbolic representation of quantities interact. Nonetheless, those two representational forms of quantities may be enhanced by convergent multisensory information. Here, we elucidate those interactions using high-density electroencephalography (EEG) and an audiovisual oddball paradigm. Participants were presented simultaneous audiovisual tokens in which the co-varying pitch of tones was combined with the embedded cardinality of dot patterns. Incongruencies were elicited independently from symbolic and non-symbolic modality within the audio-visual percept, violating the newly acquired rule that “the higher the pitch of the tone, the larger the cardinality of the figure.” The effect of neural plasticity in symbolic and non-symbolic numerical representations of quantities was investigated through a cross-sectional design, comparing musicians to musically naïve controls. Individual’s cortical activity was reconstructed and statistically modeled for a predefined time-window of the evoked response (130–170 ms). To summarize, we show that symbolic and non-symbolic processing of magnitudes is re-organized in cortical space, with professional musicians showing altered activity in motor and temporal areas. Thus, we argue that the symbolic representation of quantities is altered through musical training.
... Indeed, such hypotheses of far transfer and plasticity remain contentious (e.g., Degé, 2021;Sala & Gobet, 2020). As one example, Jäncke (2009) speculated that "when learning to play a musical instrument, the trainee also practices attention, planning functions, PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS AND COGNITIVE ABILITIES 5 memory, and self-discipline. It is thus hypothesized that musical experience would positively influence executive functions, language functions, or even intelligence in general." ...
We sought to clarify the commonly accepted link between music training and cognitive ability. Professional musicians, nonprofessionals with music training, and musically untrained individuals (N = 642) completed measures of musical ability, personality, and general cognitive ability. Professional musicians scored highest on objective and self-report measures of musical ability. On personality measures, professional musicians and musically trained participants scored similarly but higher than untrained participants on agreeableness, openness-to-experience, and the personality metatrait stability. The professionals scored higher than the other 2 groups on extraversion and the metatrait engagement. On cognitive ability, however, they were indistinguishable from untrained participants. Instead, musically trained nonprofessionals exhibited the highest cognitive ability. In short, professional musicians differed from other individuals in musical ability and personality, but not in cognitive ability. We conclude that music training predicts higher cognitive ability only among individuals who do not become professional musicians and offer possible explanations.
... Brain studies on professional musicians enabled effective investigations of basic auditory function, sensorimotor and multisensory integration, and training-induced neuroplasticity (Jäncke, 2009;Zatorre et al., 2012;Zatorre and Salimpoor, 2013;Zatorre, 2018). Structurally, musicians exhibit increased gray matter (GM) volume in motor, auditory, and visuospatial regions when compared to non-musicians (Gaser and Schlaug, 2003;James et al., 2014). ...
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Background Professional musicians are a model population for exploring basic auditory function, sensorimotor and multisensory integration, and training-induced neuroplasticity. The brain of musicians exhibits distinct structural and functional cortical features; however, little is known about how these features evolve during aging. This multiparametric study aimed to examine the functional and structural neural correlates of lifelong musical practice in elderly professional musicians. Methods Sixteen young musicians, 16 elderly musicians (age >70), and 15 elderly non-musicians participated in the study. We assessed gray matter metrics at the whole-brain and region of interest (ROI) levels using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the Freesurfer automatic segmentation and reconstruction pipeline. We used BrainVoyager semiautomated segmentation to explore individual auditory cortex morphotypes. Furthermore, we evaluated functional blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activations in auditory and non-auditory regions by functional MRI (fMRI) with an attentive tone-listening task. Finally, we performed discriminant function analyses based on structural and functional ROIs. Results A general reduction of gray matter metrics distinguished the elderly from the young subjects at the whole-brain level, corresponding to widespread natural brain atrophy. Age- and musicianship-dependent structural correlations revealed group-specific differences in several clusters including superior, middle, and inferior frontal as well as perirolandic areas. In addition, the elderly musicians exhibited increased gyrification of auditory cortex like the young musicians. During fMRI, the elderly non-musicians activated predominantly auditory regions, whereas the elderly musicians co-activated a much broader network of auditory association areas, primary and secondary motor areas, and prefrontal and parietal regions like, albeit weaker, the young musicians. Also, group-specific age- and musicianship-dependent functional correlations were observed in the frontal and parietal regions. Moreover, discriminant function analysis could separate groups with high accuracy based on a set of specific structural and functional, mainly temporal and occipital, ROIs. Conclusion In conclusion, despite naturally occurring senescence, the elderly musicians maintained musicianship-specific structural and functional cortical features. The identified structural and functional brain regions, discriminating elderly musicians from non-musicians, might be of relevance for the aging musicians’ brain. To what extent lifelong musical activity may have a neuroprotective impact needs to be addressed further in larger longitudinal studies.
... Music instrument training has been shown to induce neuroplasticity in healthy participants, both at structural and functional level (Schlaug, 2001;Jäncke, 2009;Tervaniemi, 2009;Wan and Schlaug, 2010;Herholz and Zatorre, 2012;Moore et al., 2014). These include changes in WM structure and brain connectivity, both captured with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI; Moore et al., 2014). ...
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Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term encompassing motor and often additional disabilities, resulting from insult to the developing brain and remaining throughout life. Imaging-detected alterations in white matter microstructure affect not only motor but also sensorimotor pathways. In this context, piano training is believed to promote sensorimotor rehabilitation for the multiplicity of skills and neuronal processes it involves and integrates. However, it remains unknown how this contribution may occur. Here, effects of 1.5 years of piano training in an adolescent with unilateral CP were investigated through tests of manual function and by comparing fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial and axial diffusivity in neuronal pathways pre- vs. post-training. In the absence of a control condition and of data from a larger cohort, both probabilistic neighborhood and deterministic tractography were employed to reduce bias associated with a single-case analysis and/or with user-input. No changes in manual function were detected with the tests performed. In turn, the two tractography methods yielded similar values for all studied metrics. Furthermore, post-hoc analyses yielded increased fractional anisotropy accompanied by decreases in mean diffusivity in the bilateral dorsal cingulate that were at least as large as and more consistent than in the bilateral corticospinal tract. This suggests contributions of training to the development of non-motor processes. Reduced anisotropy and correspondingly high mean diffusivity were observed for the bilateral corticospinal tract as well as for the right arcuate and the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, two sensory processing-related pathways, confirming the importance of sensorimotor rehabilitation in CP.
... Based on interview responses from this study, the use of external distraction (i.e., instrumental music) as a distraction masker is a new strategy that may support persons with TBI and RTW. These findings are similar to previous research in the areas of neuroplasticity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism identifying external distractions as a tool for cognition [44][45][46][47][48][49] . However, the translation of how to utilize distractions in clinical practice is unknown. ...
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Research Objectives Recent studies indicate that compensatory strategies are an important mechanism for acquiring and maintaining employment for persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Both persons with TBI and employers endorse the need for compensatory strategies to mitigate the impact of environmental distractions. However, the extent to which distractions impact workplace performance and perceptions of workplace distractions for persons with TBI are unknown. This phenomenological study explored the experiences of seven individuals with TBIs and how they perceived workplace distractions to impact their productivity. Design A phenomenological approach was used to collect and analyze data from seven individuals with mild, moderate, and severe TBIs who had returned to work after an injury. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore participants’ experiences with distractions at work. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Setting Interviews were conducted via phone calls to reduce the possible exposure of COVID-19 and lasted between 45 to 60 minutes. Participants Participants (ages 20 - 65) were recruited using purposeful sampling in order to provide a rich description of the functional impacts of distraction for persons with TBI in the workplace. Participants were included if they had been diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or severe TBI, had been employed or completed volunteer activities in the previous six months and spoke English. Interventions N/A. Main Outcome Measures Semi-structured interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis in order to uncover a rich description of the lived experiences of persons with TBI and workplace distractions. Results Main findings centered around environmental distractions that impact task completion, consequences of distractibility, distractibility creating strong emotional feelings and perceptions about work performance, “gaming the system” of individual distractibility, and distractions that enhance task completion. Conclusion In light of this study's findings, researchers, programmers, and clinicians are encouraged to consider the wider impact of distractions on persons with TBI. Additionally, this study's findings provide an alternative perspective on traditional clinical inquiry methods and recommendations for managing distractibility in the workplace. Future research should include inquiries about both positive and negative distraction experiences to develop ecologically valid assessments and treatment tools. Author(s) Disclosures Authors have no conflicts of interest nor financial disclosures to declare.
Cognitive training has been shown to increase neural plasticity and cognitive reserve, potentially reducing the risk of developing dementia. Music learning, specifically piano playing, has been shown to be an effective form of multimodal cognitive training. This pilot study explored the feasibility and efficacy of using a socially assistive robot to provide a piano learning cognitive training intervention to older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Participants (N=11) engaged in a four-week feasibility study, which included a one-hour piano lesson per week led by a remotely controlled robot. Participants experienced improved cognitive function in the verbal memory ( p=0.04), executive function ( p=0.01), reaction time ( p=0.04), and cognitive flexibility ( p=0.003) domains, as well as in the calculated neurocognitive index score ( p=0.03). Socially assistive robots may have the potential to provide cognitive training in the form of piano lessons for older adults with mild cognitive impairment, especially adults who cannot access traditional services.
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b ¨¨ Abstract Hemodynamic responses were measured applying functional magnetic resonance imaging in two professional piano players and two carefully matched non-musician control subjects during the performance of self-paced bimanual and unimanual tapping tasks. The bimanual tasks were chosen because they resemble typical movements pianists have to generate during piano exercises. The results showed that the primary and secondary motor areas (M1, SMA, pre-SMA, and CMA) were considerably activated to a much lesser degree in professional pianists than in non-musicians. This difference was strongest for the pre-SMA and CMA, where professional pianists showed very little activation. The results suggest that the long lasting extensive hand skill training of the pianists leads to greater efficiency which is reflected in a smaller number of active neurons needed to perform given finger movements. This in turn enlarges the possible control capacity for a wide range of movements because more movements, or more 'degrees of freedom', are controllable. © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. During motor skill acquisition, movements gain speed, sentations of graphomotor trajectories are multiply repre- precision, automaticity, and adaptability. These behav- sented, especially in the human parietal cortex, and that ioural consequences of motor skill acquisition and practise this representation changes during the course of physical are often accompanied by considerable neuronal reorgani- and imagined training (17). Furthermore, it has been sations both within the primary and secondary motor and shown that during the course of learning visuomotor sensory cortices. Applying imaging methods such as PET associations activations within the lateral premotor cortices and fMRI, it has been shown that these reorganisations change substantially (8). However, all of these brain include an initial decrease of activation within the M1 imaging studies focused on cortical and subcortical reor- contralateral to the moving hand, which is followed by an ganisations due to short-term learning of motor skills enlargement of M1 activation during the course of motor lasting not longer than 4 months. Effects of long-term training which is sustained after 4 weeks of training. These motor training of the kind needed to achieve a high changes persist for several months (13). Additional evi- standard of performance in playing musical instruments dence has shown changed cortical activation patterns have received little attention. For instance, Elbert et al. (5) within the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, and the parietal demonstrated by means of magnetoencephalography cortex during motor skill acquisition. For instance Seitz et (MEG) that the cortical sensory representation area of the al. (18) showed that learning new movement trajectories left-hand digits of professional string players is more involves the cerebellum, while overlearned trajectorial extended than that of untrained controls. Based on in vivo movements engage the premotor cortex. A further study by morphometrical techniques, Amunts et al. (1) showed that Seitz and colleagues revealed that the kinematic repre- the intrasulcal depth of the central sulcus in the vicinity of the hand motor area was substantially enlarged in profes- sional musicians in especially on the right hemisphere
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Background Performing music requires fast auditory and motor processing. Regarding professional musicians, recent brain imaging studies have demonstrated that auditory stimulation produces a co-activation of motor areas, whereas silent tapping of musical phrases evokes a co-activation in auditory regions. Whether this is obtained via a specific cerebral relay station is unclear. Furthermore, the time course of plasticity has not yet been addressed. Results Changes in cortical activation patterns (DC-EEG potentials) induced by short (20 minute) and long term (5 week) piano learning were investigated during auditory and motoric tasks. Two beginner groups were trained. The 'map' group was allowed to learn the standard piano key-to-pitch map. For the 'no-map' group, random assignment of keys to tones prevented such a map. Auditory-sensorimotor EEG co-activity occurred within only 20 minutes. The effect was enhanced after 5-week training, contributing elements of both perception and action to the mental representation of the instrument. The 'map' group demonstrated significant additional activity of right anterior regions. Conclusion We conclude that musical training triggers instant plasticity in the cortex, and that right-hemispheric anterior areas provide an audio-motor interface for the mental representation of the keyboard.
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The relative pitch of harmonic complex sounds, such as instrumental sounds, may be perceived by decoding either the fundamental pitch (f0) or the spectral pitch (fSP) of the stimuli. We classified a large cohort of 420 subjects including symphony orchestra musicians to be either f0 or fSP listeners, depending on the dominant perceptual mode. In a subgroup of 87 subjects, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and magnetoencephalography studies demonstrated a strong neural basis for both types of pitch perception irrespective of musical aptitude. Compared with f0 listeners, fSP listeners possessed a pronounced rightward, rather than leftward, asymmetry of gray matter volume and P50m activity within the pitch-sensitive lateral Heschl's gyrus. Our data link relative hemispheric lateralization with perceptual stimulus properties, whereas the absolute size of the Heschl's gyrus depends on musical aptitude.
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The theoretical framework presented in this article explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external constraints. In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 yrs. Analysis of expert performance provides unique evidence on the potential and limits of extreme environmental adaptation and learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The human brain has the remarkable capacity to alter in response to environmental demands. Training-induced structural brain changes have been demonstrated in the healthy adult human brain. However, no study has yet directly related structural brain changes to behavioral changes in the developing brain, addressing the question of whether structural brain differences seen in adults (comparing experts with matched controls) are a product of "nature" (via biological brain predispositions) or "nurture" (via early training). Long-term instrumental music training is an intense, multisensory, and motor experience and offers an ideal opportunity to study structural brain plasticity in the developing brain in correlation with behavioral changes induced by training. Here we demonstrate structural brain changes after only 15 months of musical training in early childhood, which were correlated with improvements in musically relevant motor and auditory skills. These findings shed light on brain plasticity and suggest that structural brain differences in adult experts (whether musicians or experts in other areas) are likely due to training-induced brain plasticity.
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With the advent of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), the study of plastic changes in white matter architecture due to long-term practice has attracted increasing interest. Professional musicians provide an ideal model for investigating white matter plasticity because of their early onset of extensive auditory and sensorimotor training. We performed fiber tractography and subsequent voxelwise analysis, region of interest (ROI) analysis, and detailed slicewise analysis of diffusion parameters in the corticospinal tract (CST) on 26 professional musicians and a control group of 13 participants. All analyses resulted in significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) values in both the left and the right CST in the musician group. Furthermore, a right-greater-than-left asymmetry of FA was observed regardless of group. In the musician group, diffusivity was negatively correlated with the onset of musical training in childhood. A subsequent median split into an early and a late onset musician group (median=7 years) revealed increased diffusivity in the CST of the early onset group as compared to both the late onset group and the controls. In conclusion, these DTI-based findings might indicate plastic changes in white matter architecture of the CST in professional musicians. Our results imply that training-induced changes in diffusion characteristics of the axonal membrane may lead to increased radial diffusivity as reflected in decreased FA values.
The theoretical framework presented in this article explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external constraints. In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years. Analysis of expert performance provides unique evidence on the potential and limits of extreme environmental adaptation and learning.
Recent studies in humans and nonhuman primates have shown that the functional organization of the human sensorimotor cortex changes following sensory stimulation or following the acquisition of motor skills. It is unknown whether functional plasticity in response to the acquisition of new motor skills and the continued performance of complicated bimanual movements for years is associated with structural changes in the organization of the motor cortex. Professional musicians, especially keyboard and string players, are a prototypical group for investigating these changes in the human brain. Using magnetic resonance images, we measured the length of the posterior wall of the precentral gyrus bordering the central sulcus (intrasulcal length of the precentral gyrus, ILPG) in horizontal sections through both hemispheres of right-handed keyboard players and of an age- and handedness-matched control group. Lacking a direct in vivo measurement of the primary motor cortex in humans, we assumed that the ILPG is a measure of the size of the primary motor cortex. Left-right asymmetry in the ILPG was analyzed and compared between both groups. Whereas controls exhibited a pronounced left-larger-than-right asymmetry, keyboard players had more symmetrical ILPG. The most pronounced differences in ILPG between keyboard players and controls were seen in the most dorsal part of the presumed cortical hand representation of both hemispheres. This was especially true in the nondominant right hemispheres. The size of the ILPG was negatively correlated with age of commencement of musical training in keyboard players, supporting our hypothesis that the human motor cortex can exhibit functionally induced and long-lasting structural adaptations.
The authors investigated whether intensive musical experience leads to enhancements in executive processing, as has been shown for bilingualism. Young adults who were bilinguals, musical performers (instrumentalists or vocalists), or neither completed 3 cognitive measures and 2 executive function tasks based on conflict. Both executive function tasks included control conditions that assessed performance in the absence of conflict. All participants performed equivalently for the cognitive measures and the control conditions of the executive function tasks, but performance diverged in the conflict conditions. In a version of the Simon task involving spatial conflict between a target cue and its position, bilinguals and musicians outperformed monolinguals, replicating earlier research with bilinguals. In a version of the Stroop task involving auditory and linguistic conflict between a word and its pitch, the musicians performed better than the other participants. Instrumentalists and vocalists did not differ on any measure. Results demonstrate that extended musical experience enhances executive control on a nonverbal spatial task, as previously shown for bilingualism, but also enhances control in a more specialized auditory task, although the effect of bilingualism did not extend to that domain.