The brains of musicians have stronger structural and functional connections compared to those of non-musicians, regardless of innate pitch ability, according to new research from JNeurosci.
Years of musical training shape the brain in dramatic ways. A minority of musicians -- with Mozart and Michael Jackson in their ranks -- also possess absolute pitch, the ability to identify a tone without a reference. But, it remains unclear how this ability impacts the brain.
In the biggest sample to date, Leipold et al. compared the brains of professional musicians, some with absolute pitch and some without, to non-musicians. To the team's surprise, there were no strong differences between the brains of musicians with and without absolute pitch ability; instead absolute pitch may shape the brain in more subtle ways. Compared to non-musicians, both types of musicians had stronger functional connectivity -- the synchronized activity of brain regions -- in the auditory regions of both brain hemispheres. Musicians also had stronger white matter connections between auditory regions and lobes involved in various types of high-level processing. Musicians that began their training at a younger age had stronger structural connections than musicians with a later start. These results demonstrate how experience shapes the brain, especially early in life, and how enhanced musical skills are represented in our brain.
Paper title: Musical Expertise Shapes Functional and Structural Brains Networks Independent of Absolute Pitch Ability
JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.