Structural Changes Due to Musical Training - Listening Ears

Structural Changes Due to Musical Training

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Structural Changes Due to Musical Training

Musical performance is a complex and cognitively demanding task that humans undertake (Parsons, Sergent, Hodges, & Fox, 2005). Unique structural and functional specialization is seen in the areas of the brain of the musicians as opposed to non-musicians.

Even though the processing of music occurs in both the hemispheres of the brain, a degree of hemispheric specialization has been demonstrated. Varieties of studies have reported that, perception of melodic contour and spectral processing for fine grained pitch discrimination and timbre are processed with the right auditory cortex (Hyde, Peretz, & Zatorre, 2008; Stewart, Kriegstein, Warren, & Griffiths, 2006) whereas the perception of melodic intervals and the rapid temporal processing takes place with the left auditory cortex (Zatorre & Belin, 2001).

Schlaug, Forgeard, Zhu, Norton, Norton and Winner (2009), compared 18 children (mean age of 6.49 years) who began musical training before 7 years of age (with a mean training of 30 months) and age matched non musicians, using T1 weighted MR brain scan. Results showed that, musicians had larger anterior corpus callosum than compared to non-musicians, which suggests that plasticity of the corpus callosum due to musical training occurs during early childhood. Thus, all these anatomical enhancements at different levels of their nervous system seen in musicians due to intensive musical training resulted in enhanced abilities such as improved auditory and cognitive skills.

One of the system that is most often altered by the musical training is the auditory system. Musical training results in both structural and functional changes which takes place at different levels of the auditory pathways, from brainstem (Wong, Skoe, Russo, Dees, & Kraus, 2007), to primary and secondary auditory cortices (Bermudez, Lerch, Evans, & Zatorre, 2009; Schneider, Scherg, Dosch, Specht, Gutschalk, & Rupp, 2002) to areas involved in higher order auditory cognition (Lappe, Herholz Trainor, & Pantev, 2008).


  • Schlaug, G., Forgeard, M., Zhu, L., Norton, A., Norton, A., & Winner, E. (2009). Training‐induced Neuroplasticity in Young Children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169(1), 205-208.
  • Bermudez, P., Lerch, J. P., Evans, A. C., & Zatorre, R. J. (2009). Neuroanatomical correlates of musicianship as revealed by cortical thickness and voxel-based morphometry. Cerebral Cortex, 19(7), 1583-1596.
  • Zatorre, R. J., & Belin, P. (2001). Spectral and temporal processing in human auditory cortex. Cerebral cortex, 11(10), 946-953.
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