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Keywords:

  • music;
  • instrumental music training;
  • musicians;
  • nonmusicians;
  • brain plasticity;
  • skill learning;
  • longitudinal study;
  • children;
  • development morphometry;
  • fMRI

Abstract: Research has revealed structural and functional differences in the brains of adult instrumental musicians compared to those of matched nonmusician controls, with intensity/duration of instrumental training and practice being important predictors of these differences. Nevertheless, the differential contributions of nature and nurture to these differences are not yet clear. The musician-nonmusician comparison is an ideal model for examining whether and, if so, where such functional and structural brain plasticity occurs, because musicians acquire and continuously practice a variety of complex motor, auditory, and multimodal skills (e.g., translating visually perceived musical symbols into motor commands while simultaneously monitoring instrumental output and receiving multisensory feedback). Research has also demonstrated that music training in children results in long-term enhancement of visual-spatial, verbal, and mathematical performance. However, the underlying neural bases of such enhancements and whether the intensity and duration of instrumental training or other factors, such as extracurricular activities, attention, motivation, or instructional methods can contribute to or predict these enhancements are yet unknown. Here we report the initial results from our studies examining the brain and cognitive effects of instrumental music training on young children in a longitudinal study and a cross-sectional comparison in older children. Further, we present a comparison of the results in these children's studies with observations from our cross-sectional studies with adults.