An increased leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale (PT) in absolute-pitch (AP) musicians has been previously reported, with speculation that early exposure to music influences the degree of PT asymmetry. To test this hypothesis and to determine whether a larger left PT or a smaller right PT actually accounts for the increased overall PT asymmetry in AP musicians, anatomical magnetic resonance images were taken from a right-handed group of 27 AP musicians, 27 nonmusicians, and 22 non-AP musicians. A significantly greater leftward PT asymmetry and a significantly smaller right absolute PT size for the AP musicians compared to the two control groups was found, while the left PT was only marginally larger in the AP group. The absolute size of the right PT and not the left PT was a better predictor of music group membership, possibly indicating "pruning" of the right PT rather than expansion of the left underlying the increased PT asymmetry in AP musicians. Although early exposure to music may be a prerequisite for acquiring AP, the increased PT asymmetry in AP musicians may be determined in utero, implicating possible genetic influences on PT asymmetry. This may explain why the increased PT asymmetry of AP musicians was not seen in the group of early beginning non-AP musicians.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.