Timbre-specific enhancement of auditory cortical representations in musicians

Neuroreport. 2001 Jan 22;12(1):169-74. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200101220-00041.


Neural imaging studies have shown that the brains of skilled musicians respond differently to musical stimuli than do the brains of non-musicians, particularly for musicians who commenced practice at an early age. Whether brain attributes related to musical skill are attributable to musical practice or are hereditary traits that influence the decision to train musically is a subject of controversy, owing to its pedagogic implications. Here we report that auditory cortical representations measured neuromagnetically for tones of different timbre (violin and trumpet) are enhanced compared to sine tones in violinists and trumpeters, preferentially for timbres of the instrument of training. Timbre specificity is predicted by a principle of use-dependent plasticity and imposes new requirements on nativistic accounts of brain attributes associated with musical skill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Music*