Playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain. But do these
changes persist after music training stops? We probed this question by measuring auditory
brainstem responses in a cohort of healthy young human adults with varying amounts of past
musical training. We show that adults who received formal music instruction as children have
more robust brainstem responses to sound than peers who never participated in music lessons
and that the magnitude of the response correlates with how recently training ceased. Our
results suggest that neural changes accompanying musical training during childhood are
retained in adulthood. These findings advance our understanding of long-term neuroplasticity
and have general implications for the development of effective auditory training programs.
Skoe E, Kraus N.
Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Communication Sciences, Institute for
Neuroscience, Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, and Department of
Otolaryngology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208.