Musical training shapes structural brain development.
Hyde KL., Lerch J., Norton A., Forgeard M., Winner E., Evans AC., Schlaug G.
The human brain has the remarkable capacity to alter in response to environmental demands. Training-induced structural brain changes have been demonstrated in the healthy adult human brain. However, no study has yet directly related structural brain changes to behavioral changes in the developing brain, addressing the question of whether structural brain differences seen in adults (comparing experts with matched controls) are a product of "nature" (via biological brain predispositions) or "nurture" (via early training). Long-term instrumental music training is an intense, multisensory, and motor experience and offers an ideal opportunity to study structural brain plasticity in the developing brain in correlation with behavioral changes induced by training. Here we demonstrate structural brain changes after only 15 months of musical training in early childhood, which were correlated with improvements in musically relevant motor and auditory skills. These findings shed light on brain plasticity and suggest that structural brain differences in adult experts (whether musicians or experts in other areas) are likely due to training-induced brain plasticity.