How motor, cognitive and musical expertise shapes the brain: Focus on fMRI and EEG resting-state functional connectivity

J Chem Neuroanat. 2018 Apr;89:60-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


Brain activity and structure are shaped by life experiences. This plasticity has often been demonstrated with different types of expertise by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). Experts showed domain-specific functional neural changes during completion of a task when compared to non-experts. However, all of these results are task-dependent and even though they have proven useful for understanding neural interactions and their direct relation to individual skill, studying brain plasticity without any task might provide complementary information about functional cerebral reorganization due to expertise at the whole-brain level and might facilitate comparison across studies. Resting-state functional MRI and EEG makes it possible to explore the functional traces of expertise in the brain by measuring temporal correlations of blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) and spontaneous neural activity fluctuations at rest. Since these correlations are thought to reflect a prior history co-activation of brain regions, we propose reviewing studies that focused on the effects of expertise in the motor, cognitive and musical domains on brain plasticity at rest, to determine whether there is a domain-specific neural signature of expertise. After highlighting expertise-related changes within resting-state networks for each domain, we discuss their specificity to the trained activity and the methodological considerations concerning different conditions and analyses used between studies.

Keywords: Expertise; Functional connectivity; Neural plasticity; Resting-state networks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Music*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Professional Competence*