Playing a musical instrument improves audio-motor connectivity in the brain, neuroimaging study finds – sciencedaily


Lifelong playing a musical instrument improves the connection between the auditory zone and the motor zone, as revealed by the study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex by researchers in the Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging group at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) and McGill University. from Canada. The research, carried out by analyzing the brains of musicians and non-musicians at rest using functional magnetic resonance, also found that musicians who play an instrument requiring both hands have greater autonomy between them.

The cognitive neuroscience study “Modulation of functional connectivity in auditory-motor networks in musicians compared to non-musicians” focused on music to understand how brain function and structure can be altered by ‘learning. Although most people have neural systems that allow them to listen to music and dance or sing at the same time, playing a musical instrument at a professional level is a complex task, as it requires coordination. bimanual of both hands and the interactions between the auditory system. system (ears) and motor system (hands), which are achieved with years of practice. Research shows some of the effects of music training on the structure and function of the brain.

UJI researchers, in collaboration with Robert J. Zatorre of McGill University of Canada in collaboration with ERESA in Valence, studied the impact of musical training on the brain through functional and structural images of the brain in the resting state taken by a high magnetic field. resonance imaging. “Functional magnetic resonance at rest, ie in the absence of external stimuli, is a new brain scanning methodology. It reveals interesting data on the functioning of the brain when it is active and makes it possible to study the effects of learning on the brain ”underlines César Ávila, professor of the Department of Fundamental and Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology of the Universitat Jaume I.

One of the main conclusions of the study was to verify that musical training produces an increase in audio-motor interactions in the right hemisphere at rest. “This indicates that when a musician trains and spends many years learning to play a musical instrument, there are more effective connections between the auditory and motor systems, which are the regions primarily involved in playing a musical instrument. ‘an instrument,’ explains María Ángeles Palomar-García, doctor of psychology and researcher at the Universitat Jaume I.

Two-hand control

Research has also revealed an adaptation in musicians’ brains, in areas of the brain responsible for controlling hand movements. Specifically, they found that participants with musical training had reduced connectivity between the motor regions that control both hands. This, according to María Ángeles Palomar-García, “may reflect greater skill with both hands for these musicians, compared to participants who had no musical training, due to the need to use both hands independently. and coordinated to play their instrument. “

Tests also showed that – in the case of musicians playing an instrument that only requires one hand to play, such as the trumpet – their ability with both hands was the same as that of the group which had no musical training. “In addition, hand independence in participants who played musical instruments requiring the use of both hands is related to the hours of practice throughout life. In other words: participants who have practiced more with their musical instrument have greater independence in both hands, ”explains María Ángeles Palomar-García. Therefore, the study concludes that the more you play a musical instrument that requires two-hand movements, the greater the independence between the spontaneous activity of each hand. This will allow musicians to play their musical instrument better.

Brain plasticity

The study reveals some brain plasticity, which indicates that the brain is able to adapt. “Studies on brain plasticity associated with learning are fundamental to understanding the factors that determine the flexibility of the brain to adapt to a particular situation,” explains César Avila. “Studying the connectivity and interaction between different areas of the brain in a resting state is a major component in advancing knowledge about the brain,” he adds.

The study had the participation of 34 people, of which 17 were musicians and the remaining 17 were participants who had only compulsory musical training. Currently, the group of neuropsychology and functional neuroimaging of the UJI continues this line of research by studying similar processes also in children, in collaboration with the education department of the UJI.

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