Enhanced cortical connectivity in absolute pitch musicians: a model for local hyperconnectivity

J Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Apr;23(4):1015-26. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21500. Epub 2010 Jun 1.

Abstract

Connectivity in the human brain has received increased scientific interest in recent years. Although connection disorders can affect perception, production, learning, and memory, few studies have associated brain connectivity with graded variations in human behavior, especially among normal individuals. One group of normal individuals who possess unique characteristics in both behavior and brain structure is absolute pitch (AP) musicians, who can name the appropriate pitch class of any given tone without a reference. Using diffusion tensor imaging and tractography, we observed hyperconnectivity in bilateral superior temporal lobe structures linked to AP possession. Furthermore, volume of tracts connecting left superior temporal gyrus to left middle temporal gyrus predicted AP performance. These findings extend previous reports of exaggerated temporal lobe asymmetry, may explain the higher incidence of AP in special populations, and may provide a model for understanding the heightened connectivity that is thought to underlie savant skills and cases of exceptional creativity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult