This event-related brain potential study aims to contribute to the present debate regarding the effect of musical training on the maturation of the human auditory nervous system. To address this issue, we recorded the mismatch negativity (MMN) evoked by violin and pure sine-wave tones in a group of 7.5- to 12-year-old children who had either several years of musical experience with Suzuki violin lessons, or no musical training. The strength of the MMN responses to violin tones evident in the Suzuki students clearly surpassed responses in controls; the reverse pattern was observed for sine-wave tones. Suzuki students showed significantly shorter MMN latencies to violin tones than to pure tones; the MMN latency did not differ significantly between pure tones and violin sounds in the control group. Thus, our data provide general evidence of how and to what extent extensive musical experience affects the maturation of human auditory function at multiple levels, namely, accuracy and speed of auditory discrimination processing. Our findings add to the present understanding of neuroplastic organization and function of the mammalian nervous system. Furthermore, behavioural recordings obtained from the participating children provide corroborating evidence for a relationship between the duration and intensity of training, the specific sensitivity to instrumental timbre, and pitch recognition abilities.
© 2011 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2011 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.