Distributed Auditory Cortical Representations Are Modified When Non-musicians Are Trained at Pitch Discrimination with 40 Hz Amplitude Modulated Tones
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Several functional brain attributes reflecting neocortical activity have been found to be enhanced in musicians compared to non-musicians. Included are the N1m evoked magnetic field, P2 and right-hemispheric N1c auditory evoked potentials, and the source waveform of the magnetically recorded 40 Hz auditory steady state response (SSR). We investigated whether these functional brain attributes measured by EEG are sensitive to neuroplastic remodeling in non-musician subjects. Adult non-musicians were trained for 15 sessions to discriminate small changes in the carrier frequency of 40 Hz amplitude modulated pure tones. P2 and N1c auditory evoked potentials were separated from the SSR by signal processing and found to localize to spatially differentiable sources in the secondary auditory cortex (A2). Training enhanced the P2 bilaterally and the N1c in the right hemisphere where auditory neurons may be specialized for processing of spectral information. The SSR localized to sources in the region of Heschl's gyrus in primary auditory cortex (A1). The amplitude of the SSR (assessed by bivariate T2 in 100 ms moving windows) was not augmented by training although the phase of the response was modified for the trained stimuli. The P2 and N1c enhancements observed here and reported previously in musicians may reflect new tunings on A2 neurons whose establishment and expression are gated by input converging from other regions of the brain. The SSR localizing to A1 was more resistant to remodeling, suggesting that its amplitude enhancement in musicians may be an intrinsic marker for musical skill or an early experience effect.
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