Experience-dependent characteristics of auditory function, especially with regard to speech-evoked auditory neurophysiology, have garnered increasing attention in recent years. This interest stems from both pragmatic and theoretical concerns as it bears implications for the prevention and remediation of language-based learning impairment in addition to providing insight into mechanisms engendering experience-dependent changes in human sensory function. Musicians provide an attractive model for studying the experience-dependency of auditory processing in humans due to their distinctive neural enhancements compared to nonmusicians. We have only recently begun to address whether these enhancements are observable early in life, during the initial years of music training when the auditory system is under rapid development, as well as later in life, after the onset of the aging process. Here we review neural enhancements in musically trained individuals across the life span in the context of cellular mechanisms that underlie learning, identified in animal models. Musicians' subcortical physiologic enhancements are interpreted according to a cognitive framework for auditory learning, providing a model in which to study mechanisms of experience-dependent changes in human auditory function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems