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Keywords:

  • music;
  • brain;
  • corpus callosum;
  • children;
  • plasticity

As the main interhemispheric fiber tract, the corpus callosum (CC) is of particular importance for musicians who simultaneously engage parts of both hemispheres to process and play music. Professional musicians who began music training before the age of 7 years have larger anterior CC areas than do nonmusicians, which suggests that plasticity due to music training may occur in the CC during early childhood. However, no study has yet demonstrated that the increased CC area found in musicians is due to music training rather than to preexisting differences. We tested the hypothesis that approximately 29 months of instrumental music training would cause a significant increase in the size of particular subareas of the CC known to have fibers that connect motor-related areas of both hemispheres. On the basis of total weekly practice time, a sample of 31 children aged 5–7 was divided into three groups: high-practicing, low-practicing, and controls. No CC size differences were seen at base line, but differences emerged after an average of 29 months of observation in the high-practicing group in the anterior midbody of the CC (which connects premotor and supplementary motor areas of the two hemispheres). Total weekly music exposure predicted degree of change in this subregion of the CC as well as improvement on a motor-sequencing task. Our results show that it is intense musical experience/practice, not preexisting differences, that is responsible for the larger anterior CC area found in professional adult musicians.