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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 43-44

Neuroplastic changes in musician's brain: A review

Department of Audiology & Vestibular Disorders, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

Date of Submission03-Nov-2015
Date of Acceptance09-Nov-2015
Date of Web Publication10-Dec-2015

Correspondence Address:
Himanshu Kumar Sanju
(PG in Audiology), Research Officer, All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysuru-6, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2314-8667.171513

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Neuroplasticity refers to any change or modification 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.

Keywords: musician, plasticity, central nervous system

How to cite this article:
Sanju HK. Neuroplastic changes in musician's brain: A review . Adv Arab Acad Audio-Vestibul J 2015;2:43-4

How to cite this URL:
Sanju HK. Neuroplastic changes in musician's brain: A review . Adv Arab Acad Audio-Vestibul J [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Nov 24];2:43-4. Available from: http://www.aaj.eg.net/text.asp?2015/2/2/43/171513

  Roadmap of review Top

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 [1] . Therefore, even if a particular melody has never been heard, a dissonant tone may be detected on the basis of an internal musical representation. This 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 [3] .

Neuroplasticity in musicians

Neuroplasticity refers to any change or modification 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. Modification 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 [4] .

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 different 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) [5] , showed plasticity dependent on experience; Green and Bavelier (2008) [6] 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. Thus, musicians can be considered the best group for conducting research that shows changes or modification in brain structures and functions across multiple information processing systems. Schneider et al. [7] , in 2002, reported that both the neurophysiology and morphology of Heschl's gyrus have a strong effect on musical aptitude. A similar study conducted by Ragert et al. [8] in 2004 on pianists revealed that despite the high-level performance in pianists, the effect 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 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 [9] . A voxel-based morphometric study conducted by Abdul-Kareem et al. in 2011 showed significantly increased grey matter volume in musicians compared with nonmusicians.

Results were positively correlated with the years of experience of music. This study also showed the change due to musical training in middle and superior cerebellar peduncle in trained musicians. The result revealed that musicians have significantly larger right superior cerebellar peduncle volume and number of streamlines, right middle cerebellar peduncle volume and total white matter volume of the right cerebellum. They also observed that musicians significantly show larger weighted clustering coefficient 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 [10] .

Similarly, Zendel and Alain [11] in 2012 showed that musicians experience less age-related degradation in central auditory processing. Zendel et al. [12] in 2013 recruited four groups of subjects: children with congenital hypothyroidism with and without music training, and healthy control with and without music training. They 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. These results suggest that music training may provide structural neuroplasticity in children with atypical hippocampal development because of early thyroid hormone deficiencies. In 2013, a study conducted by White-Schwoch et al. [13] 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). This 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. They recorded both cortical neuroelectric and brainstem responses in geriatric with and without modest musical training as these differentiate 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 differentiating phonetic categories. Older musicians also showed a closer correspondence between perceptual performance and neural activity [14] . Pantev and colleagues in 2015 studied the influence of long-term and short-term musical training. They showed that long-term musical training is related to a significantly different way of processing multisensory information within the auditory cortex, whereas the short-term training infers that multisensory music reading training affects the multimodal processing within the auditory cortex [15] .

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Hauser MD, McDermott J. The evolution of the music faculty: a comparative perspective. Nat Neurosci 2003; 6 :663-668.  Back to cited text no. 1
Tillmann B, Bharucha JJ, Bigand E. Implicit learning of tonality: a self-organizing approach. Psychol Rev 2000; 107 :885-913.  Back to cited text no. 2
Tervaniemi M, Brattico E. From sounds to music towards understanding the neurocognition of musical sound perception. J Consciousness Stud 2004; 11 :9-27.  Back to cited text no. 3
Merrett DL, Wilson SJ. Music and neural plasticity. Lifelong Engagement with Music: Benefits for Mental Health and Wellbeing. Journal 2012; 28 : 123-162.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Res 2008; 51 :225-239.  Back to cited text no. 5
Green CS, Bavelier D. Exercising your brain: a review of human brain plasticity and training-induced learning. Psychol Aging 2008; 23 :692-701.  Back to cited text no. 6
Schneider P, Scherg M, Dosch HG, Specht HJ, Gutschalk A, Rupp A. Morphology of Heschl's gyrus reflects enhanced activation in the auditory cortex of musicians. Nat Neurosci2002; 5 :688-694.  Back to cited text no. 7
Ragert P, Schmidt A, Altenmüller E, Dinse HR. Superior tactile performance and learning in professional pianists: evidence for meta-plasticity in musicians. Eur J Neurosci 2004; 19 :473-478.  Back to cited text no. 8
Hoenig K, Müller C, Herrnberger B, Sim EJ, Spitzer M, Ehret G, Kiefer M. Neuroplasticity of semantic representations for musical instruments in professional musicians. Neuroimage 2011; 56 :1714-1725.  Back to cited text no. 9
Abdul-Kareem IA, Stancak A, Parkes LM, Sluming V. Increased gray matter volume of left pars opercularis in male orchestral musicians correlate positively with years of musical performance. J Magn Reson Imaging 2011; 33 :24-32.  Back to cited text no. 10
Zendel BR, Alain C. Musicians experience less age-related decline in central auditory processing. Psychol Aging 2012; 27 :410-417.  Back to cited text no. 11
Zendel BR, Willoughby KA, Rovet JF. Neuroplastic effects of music lessons on hippocampal volume in children with congenital hypothyroidism. Neuroreport 2013; 24 :947-950.  Back to cited text no. 12
White-Schwoch T, Woodruff Carr K, Anderson S, Strait DL, Kraus N. Older adults benefit from music training early in life: biological evidence for long-term training-driven plasticity. J Neurosci 2013; 33 :17667-17674.  Back to cited text no. 13
Bidelman GM, Alain C. Musical training orchestrates coordinated neuroplasticity in auditory brainstem and cortex to counteract age-related declines in categorical vowel perception. J Neurosci 2015; 35 :1240-1249.  Back to cited text no. 14
Pantev C, Paraskevopoulos E Kuchenbuch A, Lu Y, Herholz SC. Musical expertise is related to neuroplastic changes of multisensory nature within the auditory cortex. Eur J Neurosci 2015; 41 :709-717.  Back to cited text no. 15


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