News Editor: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD
Those of us with little musical ability may wonder how professional musicians can make sense of the complex music that they play. The answer may lie in the finding that an area involved in auditory processing is larger and more responsive in professional musicians than in non-musicians, reported in the July issue of Nature Neuroscience. These results provide new insight into how musical ability is represented in the brain.
Peter Schneider and colleagues at the University of Heidelberg in Germany studied professional musicians, amateur musicians and non-musicians. Subjects heard tones of varying frequencies while brain responses were recorded within a region called Heschlís gyrus, part of the auditory cortex. Professional musicians showed greater responses to the tones than non-musicians; amateurs showed an intermediate response. Furthermore, when brain imaging techniques were used to measure Heschlís gyrus, the researchers found the structure to be larger in professional musicians. It remains unclear, however, whether such differences are due to a genetic predisposition or to increased exposure of professional musicians to musical training in early life.
Source: Nature Neuroscience, July 2002