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Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 219, Issue 1, pp 353–366 | Cite as

Musical training intensity yields opposite effects on grey matter density in cognitive versus sensorimotor networks

  • Clara E. JamesEmail author
  • Mathias S. Oechslin
  • Dimitri Van De Ville
  • Claude-Alain Hauert
  • Céline Descloux
  • François Lazeyras
Original Article

Abstract

Using optimized voxel-based morphometry, we performed grey matter density analyses on 59 age-, sex- and intelligence-matched young adults with three distinct, progressive levels of musical training intensity or expertise. Structural brain adaptations in musicians have been repeatedly demonstrated in areas involved in auditory perception and motor skills. However, musical activities are not confined to auditory perception and motor performance, but are entangled with higher-order cognitive processes. In consequence, neuronal systems involved in such higher-order processing may also be shaped by experience-driven plasticity. We modelled expertise as a three-level regressor to study possible linear relationships of expertise with grey matter density. The key finding of this study resides in a functional dissimilarity between areas exhibiting increase versus decrease of grey matter as a function of musical expertise. Grey matter density increased with expertise in areas known for their involvement in higher-order cognitive processing: right fusiform gyrus (visual pattern recognition), right mid orbital gyrus (tonal sensitivity), left inferior frontal gyrus (syntactic processing, executive function, working memory), left intraparietal sulcus (visuo-motor coordination) and bilateral posterior cerebellar Crus II (executive function, working memory) and in auditory processing: left Heschl’s gyrus. Conversely, grey matter density decreased with expertise in bilateral perirolandic and striatal areas that are related to sensorimotor function, possibly reflecting high automation of motor skills. Moreover, a multiple regression analysis evidenced that grey matter density in the right mid orbital area and the inferior frontal gyrus predicted accuracy in detecting fine-grained incongruities in tonal music.

Keywords

Musical training Voxel-based morphometry Grey matter density Plasticity Cognition Sensorimotor function 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Andres Posada, Alexis Hervais Adelman and Sebastian Rieger for assisting in MR data acquisition and help with fMRI setup, and Julien Chanal and Olivier Renaud for advice on statistical data analysis. Finally we thank Alexis Hervais Adelman once more for assistance on analyses, and precious comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clara E. James
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Mathias S. Oechslin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dimitri Van De Ville
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Claude-Alain Hauert
    • 1
    • 2
  • Céline Descloux
    • 6
  • François Lazeyras
    • 4
  1. 1.Geneva Neuroscience CenterUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland, HealthGenevaSwitzerland
  4. 4.Faculty of Medicine, Department of Radiology and Medical InformaticsUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  5. 5.Institute of Bioengineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  6. 6.Medical University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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