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      How Musical Training Shapes the Adult Brain: Predispositions and Neuroplasticity

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          Learning to play a musical instrument is a complex task that integrates multiple sensory modalities and higher-order cognitive functions. Therefore, musical training is considered a useful framework for the research on training-induced neuroplasticity. However, the classical nature-or-nurture question remains, whether the differences observed between musicians and non-musicians are due to predispositions or result from the training itself. Here we present a review of recent publications with strong focus on experimental designs to better understand both brain reorganization and the neuronal markers of predispositions when learning to play a musical instrument. Cross-sectional studies identified structural and functional differences between the brains of musicians and non-musicians, especially in regions related to motor control and auditory processing. A few longitudinal studies showed functional changes related to training while listening to and producing music, in the motor network and its connectivity with the auditory system, in line with the outcomes of cross-sectional studies. Parallel changes within the motor system and between the motor and auditory systems were revealed for structural connectivity. In addition, potential predictors of musical learning success were found including increased brain activation in the auditory and motor systems during listening, the microstructure of the arcuate fasciculus, and the functional connectivity between the auditory and the motor systems. We show that “the musical brain” is a product of both the natural human neurodiversity and the training practice.

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          Most cited references 106

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          The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.

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            Power failure: why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience.

            A study with low statistical power has a reduced chance of detecting a true effect, but it is less well appreciated that low power also reduces the likelihood that a statistically significant result reflects a true effect. Here, we show that the average statistical power of studies in the neurosciences is very low. The consequences of this include overestimates of effect size and low reproducibility of results. There are also ethical dimensions to this problem, as unreliable research is inefficient and wasteful. Improving reproducibility in neuroscience is a key priority and requires attention to well-established but often ignored methodological principles.
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              Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians.

              From an early age, musicians learn complex motor and auditory skills (e.g., the translation of visually perceived musical symbols into motor commands with simultaneous auditory monitoring of output), which they practice extensively from childhood throughout their entire careers. Using a voxel-by-voxel morphometric technique, we found gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when comparing professional musicians (keyboard players) with a matched group of amateur musicians and non-musicians. Although some of these multiregional differences could be attributable to innate predisposition, we believe they may represent structural adaptations in response to long-term skill acquisition and the repetitive rehearsal of those skills. This hypothesis is supported by the strong association we found between structural differences, musician status, and practice intensity, as well as the wealth of supporting animal data showing structural changes in response to long-term motor training. However, only future experiments can determine the relative contribution of predisposition and practice.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurosci
                Front Neurosci
                Front. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                10 March 2021
                : 15
                1Laboratory of Brain Imaging, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences , Warsaw, Poland
                2Laboratory of Language Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences , Warsaw, Poland
                Author notes

                Edited by: Eckart Altenmüller, Hanover University of Music Drama and Media, Germany

                Reviewed by: Jennifer Grau-Sánchez, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain; Peter Schneider, Heidelberg University, Germany

                *Correspondence: Alicja M. Olszewska, a.olszewska@ 123456nencki.edu.pl

                This article was submitted to Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience

                Copyright © 2021 Olszewska, Gaca, Herman, Jednoróg and Marchewka.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 106, Pages: 16, Words: 0
                Funded by: Narodowe Centrum Nauki 10.13039/501100004281


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