Cross-modal plasticity of the motor cortex while listening to a rehearsed musical piece

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Learning a musical piece requires the development of a strong linkage between sensory and motor representations. Audition plays a central role and a tight cortical auditory–motor corepresentation is a characteristic feature of music processing. Recent works have indicated the establishment of a functional connection between auditory and motor cortices during the learning of a novel piece, although no causal relation has yet been demonstrated. Here transcranial magnetic stimulation of the cortical motor representation involved in musical performance was used to test excitability changes in piano players during auditory presentation of a rehearsed and a non-rehearsed piece. Results showed an increased motor excitability for the rehearsed but not for the non-rehearsed piece. Moreover, we observed an increase of excitability over time as intracortical facilitation was already present after 30 min of training whereas cortico-spinal facilitation increased after a longer training period (5 days).

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