Enhancement of neuroplastic P2 and N1c auditory evoked potentials in musicians

J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 2;23(13):5545-52. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.23-13-05545.2003.


P2 and N1c components of the auditory evoked potential (AEP) have been shown to be sensitive to remodeling of the auditory cortex by training at pitch discrimination in nonmusician subjects. Here, we investigated whether these neuroplastic components of the AEP are enhanced in musicians in accordance with their musical training histories. Highly skilled violinists and pianists and nonmusician controls listened under conditions of passive attention to violin tones, piano tones, and pure tones matched in fundamental frequency to the musical tones. Compared with nonmusician controls, both musician groups evidenced larger N1c (latency, 138 msec) and P2 (latency, 185 msec) responses to the three types of tonal stimuli. As in training studies with nonmusicians, N1c enhancement was expressed preferentially in the right hemisphere, where auditory neurons may be specialized for processing of spectral pitch. Equivalent current dipoles fitted to the N1c and P2 field patterns localized to spatially differentiable regions of the secondary auditory cortex, in agreement with previous findings. These results suggest that the tuning properties of neurons are modified in distributed regions of the auditory cortex in accordance with the acoustic training history (musical- or laboratory-based) of the subject. Enhanced P2 and N1c responses in musicians need not be considered genetic or prenatal markers for musical skill.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Occupations
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sound Localization / physiology