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Leonardo Bonetti

An ALE meta-analytic review of musical expertise

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Through long-term training, music experts acquire complex and specialized sensorimotor skills, which are paralleled by continuous neuro-anatomical and -functional adaptations. The underlying neuroplasticity mechanisms have been extensively explored in decades of research in music, cognitive, and translational neuroscience. However, the absence of a comprehensive review and quantitative meta-analysis prevents the plethora of variegated findings to ultimately converge into a unified picture of the neuroanatomy of musical expertise. Here, we performed a comprehensive neuroimaging meta-analysis of publications investigating neuro-anatomical and -functional differences between musicians (M) and non-musicians (NM). Eighty-four studies were included in the qualitative synthesis. From these, 58 publications were included in coordinate-based meta-analyses using the anatomic/activation likelihood estimation (ALE) method. This comprehensive approach delivers a coherent cortico-subcortical network encompassing sensorimotor and limbic regions bilaterally. Particularly, M exhibited higher volume/activity in auditory, sensorimotor, interoceptive, and limbic brain areas and lower volume/activity in parietal areas as opposed to NM. Notably, we reveal topographical (dis-)similarities between the identified functional and anatomical networks and characterize their link to various cognitive functions by means of meta-analytic connectivity modelling. Overall, we effectively synthesized decades of research in the field and provide a consistent and controversies-free picture of the neuroanatomy of musical expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11726
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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