Enhanced White Matter Fiber Tracts in Advanced Jazz Improvisers

Brain Sci. 2021 Apr 16;11(4):506. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11040506.


Human cognition and behavior arise from neuronal interactions over brain structural networks. These neuronal interactions cause changes in structural networks over time. How a creative activity such as musical improvisation performance changes the brain structure is largely unknown. In this diffusion magnetic resonance imaging study, we examined the brain's white matter fiber properties in previously identified functional networks and compared the findings between advanced jazz improvisers and non-musicians. We found that, for advanced improvisers compared with non-musicians, the normalized quantitative anisotropy (NQA) is elevated in the lateral prefrontal areas and supplementary motor area, and the underlying white matter fiber tracts connecting these areas. This enhancement of the diffusion anisotropy along the fiber pathway connecting the lateral prefrontal and supplementary motor is consistent with the functional networks during musical improvisation tasks performed by expert jazz improvisers. These findings together suggest that experts' creative skill is associated with the task-relevant, long-timescale brain structural network changes, in support of related cognitive underpinnings.

Keywords: connectivity; creativity; fiber integrity; music improvisation; quantitative anisotropy; tractography.