The effects of musical practice on structural plasticity: the dynamics of grey matter changes

Brain Cogn. 2014 Oct:90:174-80. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2014.06.013. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


Intensive training and the acquisition of expertise are known to bring about structural changes in the brain. Musical training is a particularly interesting model. Previous studies have reported structural brain modifications in the auditory, motor and visuospatial areas of musicians compared with nonmusicians. The main goal of the present study was to go one step further, by exploring the dynamic of those structural brain changes related to musical experience. To this end, we conducted a regression study on 44 nonmusicians and amateur musicians with 0-26years of musical practice of a variety instruments. We sought first to highlight brain areas that increased with the duration of practice and secondly distinguish (thanks to an ANOVA analysis) brain areas that undergo grey matter changes after only limited years of musical practice from those that require longer practice before they exhibit changes. Results revealed that musical training results a greater grey matter volumes in different brain areas for musicians. Changes appear gradually in the left hippocampus and right middle and superior frontal regions, but later also include the right insula and supplementary motor area and left superior temporal, and posterior cingulate areas. Given that all participants had the same age and that we controlled for age and education level, these results cannot be ascribed to normal brain maturation. Instead, they support the notion that musical training could induce dynamic structural changes.

Keywords: MRI; Music; Plasticity; Training; VBM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult