Resting state functional connectivity of the ventral auditory pathway in musicians with absolute pitch

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Aug;38(8):3899-3916. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23637. Epub 2017 May 8.


Absolute pitch (AP) is the ability to recognize pitch chroma of tonal sound without external references, providing a unique model of the human auditory system (Zatorre: Nat Neurosci 6 () 692-695). In a previous study (Kim and Knösche: Hum Brain Mapp () 3486-3501), we identified enhanced intracortical myelination in the right planum polare (PP) in musicians with AP, which could be a potential site for perceptional processing of pitch chroma information. We speculated that this area, which initiates the ventral auditory pathway, might be crucially involved in the perceptual stage of the AP process in the context of the "dual pathway hypothesis" that suggests the role of the ventral pathway in processing nonspatial information related to the identity of an auditory object (Rauschecker: Eur J Neurosci 41 () 579-585). To test our conjecture on the ventral pathway, we investigated resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) from musicians with varying degrees of AP. Should our hypothesis be correct, RSFC via the ventral pathway is expected to be stronger in musicians with AP, whereas such group effect is not predicted in the RSFC via the dorsal pathway. In the current data, we found greater RSFC between the right PP and bilateral anteroventral auditory cortices in musicians with AP. In contrast, we did not find any group difference in the RSFC of the planum temporale (PT) between musicians with and without AP. We believe that these findings support our conjecture on the critical role of the ventral pathway in AP recognition. Hum Brain Mapp 38:3899-3916, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: absolute pitch; dual auditory pathway hypothesis; functional magnetic resonance imaging; human auditory system; pitch chroma perception; planum polare; resting-state network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Pathways / diagnostic imaging*
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Myelin Sheath
  • Pitch Perception* / physiology
  • Professional Competence
  • Rest