The aim of this study was to explore whether musical practice-related gray matter increases in brain regions are accompanied by modifications in their resting-state functional connectivity. 16 young musically experienced adults and 17 matched nonmusicians underwent an anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a resting-state functional MRI (rsfMRI). A whole-brain two-sample t test run on the T1-weighted structural images revealed four clusters exhibiting significant increases in gray matter (GM) volume in the musician group, located within the right posterior and middle cingulate gyrus, left superior temporal gyrus and right inferior orbitofrontal gyrus. Each cluster was used as a seed region to generate and compare whole-brain resting-state functional connectivity maps. The two clusters within the cingulate gyrus exhibited greater connectivity for musicians with the right prefrontal cortex and left temporal pole, which play a role in autobiographical and semantic memory, respectively. The cluster in the left superior temporal gyrus displayed enhanced connectivity with several language-related areas (e.g., left premotor cortex, bilateral supramarginal gyri). Finally, the cluster in the right inferior frontal gyrus displayed more synchronous activity at rest with claustrum, areas thought to play a role in binding sensory and motor information. We interpreted these findings as the consequence of repeated collaborative use in general networks supporting some of the memory, perceptual-motor and emotional features of musical practice.
Keywords: Brain plasticity; Musical practice; Voxel-based morphometry (VBM); rsfMRI.
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