Increased gray matter volume of left pars opercularis in male orchestral musicians correlate positively with years of musical performance

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2011 Jan;33(1):24-32. doi: 10.1002/jmri.22391.


Purpose: To compare manual volumetry of gray matter (GM) / white matter (WM) of Broca's area subparts: pars opercularis (POP) and pars triangularis (PTR) in both hemispheres between musicians and nonmusician, as it has been shown that these regions are crucial for musical abilities. A previous voxel-based morphometric (VBM) study conducted in our laboratory reported increased GM density in Broca's area of left hemisphere in male orchestral musicians. Functional segregation of POP/PTR justified separate volumetric analysis of these parts.

Materials and methods: We used the same cohort for the VBM study. Manual morphometry (stereology) was used to compare volumes between 26/26 right-handed orchestral musicians/nonmusicians.

Results: As expected, musicians showed significantly increased GM volume in the Broca's area, specifically in the left POP. No significant results were detected in right POP, left/right PTR GM volumes, and WM volumes for all regions. Results were positively correlated with years of musical performance (r = 0.7, P = 0.0001).

Conclusion: This result corroborates the VBM study and is in line with the hypothesis of critical involvement of POP in hearing-action integration being an integral component of frontoparietotemporal mirror neuron network. We hypothesize that increased size of musicians' left POP represent use-dependent structural adaptation in response to intensive audiomotor skill acquisition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult