Selective neyrophysiologic responses to mysic jn instruinentalists with different listening biographies

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Lauren M. Mlsna, Ajith K. Uppunda, Todd B. Parrish, Patrick C.M. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


To appropriately adapt to constant sensory stimulation, neurons in the auditory system are tuned to various acoustic characteristics, such as center frequencies, frequency modulations, and their combinations, particularly those combinations that carry species-specific communicative functions. The present study asks whether such tunings extend beyond acoustic and communicative functions to auditory self-relevance and expertise. More specifically, we examined the role of the listening biography- an individual's long term experience with a particular type of auditory input-on perceptual-neural plasticity. Two groups of expert instrumentalists (violinists and flutists) listened to matched musical excerpts played on the two instruments (J.S. Bach Partitas for solo violin and flute) while their cerebral hemodynamic responses were measured using fMRI. Our experimental design allowed for a comprehensive investigation of the neurophysiology (cerebral hemodynamic responses as measured by fMRI) of auditory expertise (i.e., when violinists listened to violin music and when flutists listened to flute music) and nonexpertise (i.e., when subjects listened to music played on the other instrument). We found an extensive cerebral network of expertise, which implicates increased sensitivity to musical syntax (BA 44), timbre (auditory association cortex), and sound-motor interactions (precentral gyrus) when listening to music played on the instrument of expertise (the instrument for which subjects had a unique listening biography). These findings highlight auditory self-relevance and expertise as a mechanism of perceptual-neural plasticity, and implicate neural tuning that includes and extends beyond acoustic and communication-relevant structures. Hum Brain Mapp 30:267-275, 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory expertise
  • Auditory neuroscience
  • Music perception
  • Plasticity
  • Sensory neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Anatomy


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