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Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Oct;38(10):4834-4849. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23682. Epub 2017 Jul 24.

Insula-based networks in professional musicians: Evidence for increased functional connectivity during resting state fMRI.

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Research Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS-IdISBa), University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
University Ramon Llull, Blanquerna, FPCEE, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Center for Music in the Brain, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Despite considerable research on experience-dependent neuroplasticity in professional musicians, detailed understanding of an involvement of the insula is only now beginning to emerge. We investigated the effects of musical training on intrinsic insula-based connectivity in professional classical musicians relative to nonmusicians using resting-state functional MRI. Following a tripartite scheme of insula subdivisions, coactivation profiles were analyzed for the posterior, ventral anterior, and dorsal anterior insula in both hemispheres. While whole-brain connectivity across all participants confirmed previously reported patterns, between-group comparisons revealed increased insular connectivity in musicians relative to nonmusicians. Coactivated regions encompassed constituents of large-scale networks involved in salience detection (e.g., anterior and middle cingulate cortex), affective processing (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole), and higher order cognition (e.g., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal junction), whereas no differences were found for the reversed group contrast. Importantly, these connectivity patterns were stronger in musicians who experienced more years of musical practice, including also sensorimotor regions involved in music performance (M1 hand area, S1, A1, and SMA). We conclude that musical training triggers significant reorganization in insula-based networks, potentially facilitating high-level cognitive and affective functions associated with the fast integration of multisensory information in the context of music performance. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4834-4849, 2017.


executive control; experience-dependent plasticity; insula; musicians; salience; sensorimotor

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