Music training enhances the rapid plasticity of P3a/P3b event-related brain potentials for unattended and attended target sounds

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2012 Apr;74(3):600-12. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0257-9.


Neurocognitive studies have shown that extensive musical training enhances P3a and P3b event-related potentials for infrequent target sounds, which reflects stronger attention switching and stimulus evaluation in musicians than in nonmusicians. However, it is unknown whether the short-term plasticity of P3a and P3b responses is also enhanced in musicians. We compared the short-term plasticity of P3a and P3b responses to infrequent target sounds in musicians and nonmusicians during auditory perceptual learning tasks. Target sounds, deviating in location, pitch, and duration with three difficulty levels, were interspersed among frequently presented standard sounds in an oddball paradigm. We found that during passive exposure to sounds, musicians had habituation of the P3a, while nonmusicians showed enhancement of the P3a between blocks. Between active tasks, P3b amplitudes for duration deviants were reduced (habituated) in musicians only, and showed a more posterior scalp topography for habituation when compared to P3bs of nonmusicians. In both groups, the P3a and P3b latencies were shortened for deviating sounds. Also, musicians were better than nonmusicians at discriminating target deviants. Regardless of musical training, better discrimination was associated with higher working memory capacity. We concluded that music training enhances short-term P3a/P3b plasticity, indicating training-induced changes in attentional skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300 / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Music*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult