Several studies have shown that motor-skill training over extended time periods results in reorganization of neural networks and changes in brain morphology. Yet, little is known about training-induced adaptive changes in the vocal system, which is largely subserved by intrinsic reflex mechanisms. We investigated highly accomplished opera singers, conservatory level vocal students, and laymen during overt singing of an Italian aria in a neuroimaging experiment. We provide the first evidence that the training of vocal skills is accompanied by increased functional activation of bilateral primary somatosensory cortex representing articulators and larynx. Opera singers showed additional activation in right primary sensorimotor cortex. Further training-related activation comprised the inferior parietal lobe and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. At the subcortical level, expert singers showed increased activation in the basal ganglia, the thalamus, and the cerebellum. A regression analysis of functional activation with accumulated singing practice confirmed that vocal skills training correlates with increased activity of a cortical network for enhanced kinesthetic motor control and sensorimotor guidance together with increased involvement of implicit motor memory areas at the subcortical and cerebellar level. Our findings may have ramifications for both voice rehabilitation and deliberate practice of other implicit motor skills that require interoception.In another article on the brain and music, Omar et al. (open access) compare normal subjects with alzheimer's and dementia patients to find evidence that music knowledge is fractionated, with superordinate musical knowledge relatively more robust than knowledge of particular music. They propose that music constitutes a distinct domain of non-verbal knowledge but shares certain cognitive organizational features with other brain knowledge systems. Within the domain of music knowledge, dissociable cognitive mechanisms process knowledge derived from physical sources and the knowledge of abstract musical entities.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Opera singers' brains - and the brain's organization of music knowledge
Numerous studies have shown brain changes that correlate with athletic and musical instrument training. Kleber et al. now extend such work to vocal performance training: