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Neuroimage. 2004 Jun;22(2):656-64.

A voxel-based approach to gray matter asymmetries.

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Institute of Experimental and General Psychology, University of Magdeburg, Germany.


Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to analyze gray matter (GM) asymmetries in a large sample (n = 60) of male and female professional musicians with and without absolute pitch (AP). We chose to examine these particular groups because previous studies using traditional region-of-interest (ROI) analyses have shown differences in hemispheric asymmetry related to AP and gender. Voxel-based methods may have advantages over traditional ROI-based methods since the analysis can be performed across the whole brain with minimal user bias. After determining that the VBM method was sufficiently sensitive for the detection of differences in GM asymmetries between groups, we found that male AP musicians were more leftward lateralized in the anterior region of the planum temporale (PT) than male non-AP musicians. This confirmed the results of previous studies using ROI-based methods that showed an association between PT asymmetry and the AP phenotype. We further observed that male non-AP musicians revealed an increased leftward GM asymmetry in the postcentral gyrus compared to female non-AP musicians, again corroborating results of a previously published study using ROI-based methods. By analyzing hemispheric GM differences across our entire sample, we were able to partially confirm findings of previous studies using traditional morphometric techniques, as well as more recent, voxel-based analyses. In addition, we found some unusually pronounced GM asymmetries in our musician sample not previously detected in subjects unselected for musical training. Since we were able to validate gender- and AP-related brain asymmetries previously described using traditional ROI-based morphometric techniques, the results of our analyses support the use of VBM for examinations of GM asymmetries.

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