Resting-state functional connectivity in an auditory network differs between aspiring professional and amateur musicians and correlates with performance

Brain Struct Funct. 2023 Dec;228(9):2147-2163. doi: 10.1007/s00429-023-02711-1. Epub 2023 Oct 4.


Auditory experience-dependent plasticity is often studied in the domain of musical expertise. Available evidence suggests that years of musical practice are associated with structural and functional changes in auditory cortex and related brain regions. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to investigate neural correlates of musical training and expertise beyond specific task influences. Here, we compared two groups of musicians with varying expertise: 24 aspiring professional musicians preparing for their entrance exam at Universities of Arts versus 17 amateur musicians without any such aspirations but who also performed music on a regular basis. We used an interval recognition task to define task-relevant brain regions and computed functional connectivity and graph-theoretical measures in this network on separately acquired resting-state data. Aspiring professionals performed significantly better on all behavioral indicators including interval recognition and also showed significantly greater network strength and global efficiency than amateur musicians. Critically, both average network strength and global efficiency were correlated with interval recognition task performance assessed in the scanner, and with an additional measure of interval identification ability. These findings demonstrate that task-informed resting-state fMRI can capture connectivity differences that correspond to expertise-related differences in behavior.

Keywords: Auditory plasticity; Graph theoretical measures; Interval identification; Musicians; Resting-state fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex*
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Music*