Differential Activation and Functional Plasticity of Multimodal Areas Associated with Acquired Musical Skill

N. Srinivasan, J. Bishop, R. Yekovich, D. B. Rosenfield, S. A. Helekar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Training of a musical skill is known to produce a distributed neural representation of the ability to perceive music and perform musical tasks. In the present study we tested the hypothesis that the audiovisual perception of music involves a wider activation of multimodal sensory and sensorimotor structures in the brain, including those containing mirror neurons. We mapped the activation of brain areas during passive listening and viewing of the first 40 s of “Ode to Joy” being played on the piano by an expert pianist. To do this we performed brain functional magnetic resonance imaging during the presentation of 6 different stimulus contrasts pertaining to that musical melody in a pseudo-randomized order. Group data analysis in musically trained and untrained adults showed robust activation in broadly distributed occipitotemporal, parietal and frontal areas in trained subjects and much restricted activation in untrained subjects. A visual stimulus contrast focusing on the visual motion percept of moving fingers on piano keys revealed selective bilateral activation of a locus corresponding to the V5/MT area, which was significantly more pronounced in trained subjects and showed partial linear dependence on the duration of training on the left side. Quantitative analysis of individual brain volumes confirmed a significantly greater and wider spread of activation in trained compared to untrained subjects. These findings support the view that audiovisual perception of music and musical gestures in trained musicians involves an expanded and widely distributed neural representation formed due to experience-dependent plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-303
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020


  • cerebral cortex
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • learning
  • mirror neurons
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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