Music training leads to the development of timbre-specific gamma band activity
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Oscillatory gamma band activity (GBA, 30-100 Hz) has been shown to correlate with perceptual and cognitive phenomena including feature binding, template matching, and learning and memory formation. We hypothesized that if GBA reflects highly learned perceptual template matching, we should observe its development in musicians specific to the timbre of their instrument of practice. EEG was recorded in adult professional violinists and amateur pianists as well as in 4- and 5-year-old children studying piano in the Suzuki method before they commenced music lessons and 1 year later. The adult musicians showed robust enhancement of induced (non-time-locked) GBA, specifically to their instrument of practice, with the strongest effect in professional violinists. Consistent with this result, the children receiving piano lessons exhibited increased power of induced GBA for piano tones with 1 year of training, while children not taking lessons showed no effect. In comparison to induced GBA, evoked (time-locked) gamma band activity (30-90 Hz, approximately 80 ms latency) was present only in adult groups. Evoked GBA was more pronounced in musicians than non-musicians, with synchronization equally exhibited for violin and piano tones but enhanced for these tones compared to pure tones. Evoked gamma activity may index the physical properties of a sound and is modulated by acoustical training, while induced GBA may reflect higher perceptual learning and is shaped by specific auditory experiences.
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