Musical expertise shapes functional and structural brain networks independent of absolute pitch ability [article]

Simon Leipold, Carina Klein, Lutz Jancke
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Professional musicians are a popular model for investigating experience-dependent plasticity in human large-scale brain networks. A minority of musicians possess absolute pitch, the ability to name a tone without reference. The study of absolute pitch musicians provides insights into how a very specific talent is reflected in brain networks. Previous studies of the effects of musicianship and absolute pitch on large-scale brain networks have yielded highly heterogeneous findings regarding the
more » ... ngs regarding the localization and direction of the effects. This heterogeneity was likely influenced by small samples and vastly different methodological approaches. Here, we conducted a comprehensive multimodal assessment of effects of musicianship and absolute pitch on intrinsic functional and structural connectivity using a variety of commonly employed and state-of-the-art multivariate methods in the largest sample to date (n = 153; 52 absolute pitch musicians, 51 relative pitch musicians, and 50 non-musicians). Our results show robust effects of musicianship in inter- and intrahemispheric connectivity in both structural and functional networks. Crucially, most of the effects were replicable in both musicians with and without absolute pitch when compared to non-musicians. However, we did not find evidence for an effect of absolute pitch on intrinsic functional or structural connectivity in our data: The two musician groups showed strikingly similar networks across all analyses. Our results suggest that long-term musical training is associated with robust changes in large-scale brain networks. The effects of absolute pitch on neural networks might be extremely subtle, requiring very large samples or task-based experiments to be detected.
doi:10.1101/2020.07.24.216986 fatcat:monnsfejgjf6hmskqbvfkssngu