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J Neurosci. 2008 Sep 24;28(39):9632-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2254-08.2008.

Cortical plasticity induced by short-term unimodal and multimodal musical training.

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Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Münster, 48149 Münster, Germany.


Learning to play a musical instrument requires complex multimodal skills involving simultaneous perception of several sensory modalities: auditory, visual, somatosensory, as well as the motor system. Therefore, musical training provides a good and adequate neuroscientific model to study multimodal brain plasticity effects in humans. Here, we investigated the impact of short-term unimodal and multimodal musical training on brain plasticity. Two groups of nonmusicians were musically trained over the course of 2 weeks. One group [sensorimotor-auditory (SA)] learned to play a musical sequence on the piano, whereas the other group [auditory (A)] listened to and made judgments about the music that had been played by participants of the sensorimotor-auditory group. Training-induced cortical plasticity was assessed by recording the musically elicited mismatch negativity (MMNm) from magnetoencephalographic measurements before and after training. SA and A groups showed significantly different cortical responses after training. Specifically, the SA group showed significant enlargement of MMNm after training compared with the A group, reflecting greater enhancement of musical representations in auditory cortex after sensorimotor-auditory training compared with after mere auditory training. Thus, we have experimentally demonstrated that not only are sensorimotor and auditory systems connected, but also that sensorimotor-auditory training causes plastic reorganizational changes in the auditory cortex over and above changes introduced by auditory training alone.

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