Musical training as a framework for brain plasticity: behavior, function, and structure

Neuron. 2012 Nov 8;76(3):486-502. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.011.


Musical training has emerged as a useful framework for the investigation of training-related plasticity in the human brain. Learning to play an instrument is a highly complex task that involves the interaction of several modalities and higher-order cognitive functions and that results in behavioral, structural, and functional changes on time scales ranging from days to years. While early work focused on comparison of musical experts and novices, more recently an increasing number of controlled training studies provide clear experimental evidence for training effects. Here, we review research investigating brain plasticity induced by musical training, highlight common patterns and possible underlying mechanisms of such plasticity, and integrate these studies with findings and models for mechanisms of plasticity in other domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Music*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*