Statistical learning of multisensory regularities is enhanced in musicians: An MEG study

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The present study used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to identify the neural correlates of audiovisual statistical learning, while disentangling the differential contributions of uni- and multi-modal statistical mismatch responses in humans. The applied paradigm was based on a combination of a statistical learning paradigm and a multisensory oddball one, combining an audiovisual, an auditory and a visual stimulation stream, along with the corresponding deviances. Plasticity effects due to musical expertise were investigated by comparing the behavioral and MEG responses of musicians to non-musicians. The behavioral results indicated that the learning was successful for both musicians and non-musicians. The unimodal MEG responses are consistent with previous studies, revealing the contribution of Heschl's gyrus for the identification of auditory statistical mismatches and the contribution of medial temporal and visual association areas for the visual modality. The cortical network underlying audiovisual statistical learning was found to be partly common and partly distinct from the corresponding unimodal networks, comprising right temporal and left inferior frontal sources. Musicians showed enhanced activation in superior temporal and superior frontal gyrus. Connectivity and information processing flow amongst the sources comprising the cortical network of audiovisual statistical learning, as estimated by transfer entropy, was reorganized in musicians, indicating enhanced top-down processing. This neuroplastic effect showed a cross-modal stability between the auditory and audiovisual modalities.HighlightsStatistical Learning of multisensory stimulation streams was investigated.Cortical responses and information transfer were measured using MEG.Musical expertise effects, were investigated comparing musicians and non-musicians.Distinction between uni- and multi-modal Statistical Learning responses was revealed.Increased top down modulation in musicians, revealed by enhanced cortical connectivity.

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