Instrument specific brain activation in sensorimotor and auditory representation in musicians

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Musicians show a remarkable ability to interconnect motor patterns and sensory processing in the somatosensory and auditory domains. Many of these processes are specific for the instrument used. We were interested in the cerebral and cerebellar representations of these instrument-specific changes and therefore applied functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in two groups of instrumentalists with different instrumental training for comparable periods (approximately 15 years). The first group (trumpet players) uses tight finger and lip interaction; the second (pianists as control group) uses only the extremities for performance. fMRI tasks were balanced for instructions (piano and trumpet notes), sensory feedback (keypad and trumpet), and hand–lip interaction on the trumpet. During fMRI, both groups switched between different devices (trumpet or keypad) and performance was combined with or without auditory feedback. Playing the trumpet without any tone emission or using the mouthpiece showed an instrument training-specific activation increase in trumpet players. This was evident for the posterior–superior cerebellar hemisphere, the dominant primary sensorimotor cortex, and the left Heschl's gyrus. Additionally, trumpet players showed increased activity in the bilateral Heschl's gyrus during actual trumpet playing, although they showed significantly decreased loudness while playing with the mouthpiece in the scanner compared to pianists.


▸ Trumpet players show a cerebro-cerebellar auditory-motor loop in isolated motor tasks. ▸ Long term audiomotor training leads to auditory feedback mechanism including A1. ▸ Primary sensory representation sites converge while playing a trumpet. ▸ Lip muscle activity is positively correlated to experience in trumpet players.

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