Auditory and visual interhemispheric communication in musicians and non-musicians

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 27;8(12):e84446. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084446. eCollection 2013.


The corpus callosum (CC) is a brain structure composed of axon fibres linking the right and left hemispheres. Musical training is associated with larger midsagittal cross-sectional area of the CC, suggesting that interhemispheric communication may be faster in musicians. Here we compared interhemispheric transmission times (ITTs) for musicians and non-musicians. ITT was measured by comparing simple reaction times to stimuli presented to the same hemisphere that controlled a button-press response (uncrossed reaction time), or to the contralateral hemisphere (crossed reaction time). Both visual and auditory stimuli were tested. We predicted that the crossed-uncrossed difference (CUD) for musicians would be smaller than for non-musicians as a result of faster interhemispheric transfer times. We did not expect a difference in CUDs between the visual and auditory modalities for either musicians or non-musicians, as previous work indicates that interhemispheric transfer may happen through the genu of the CC, which contains motor fibres rather than sensory fibres. There were no significant differences in CUDs between musicians and non-musicians. However, auditory CUDs were significantly smaller than visual CUDs. Although this auditory-visual difference was larger in musicians than non-musicians, the interaction between modality and musical training was not significant. Therefore, although musical training does not significantly affect ITT, the crossing of auditory information between hemispheres appears to be faster than visual information, perhaps because subcortical pathways play a greater role for auditory interhemispheric transfer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Time Factors

Grant support

The sources of funding that have supported the work are: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). For NSERC, the URL is:, and the grant number is: 145629217. For CFI, the URL is:, and the grant number is: 29607. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.