Neuroanatomical correlates of musicianship as revealed by cortical thickness and voxel-based morphometry.
Bermudez P., Lerch JP., Evans AC., Zatorre RJ.
We used a multimethod approach to investigate the neuroanatomical correlates of musicianship and absolute pitch (AP). Cortical thickness measures, interregional correlations applied to these thicknesses, and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) were applied to the same magnetic resonance imaging data set of 71 musicians (27 with AP) and 64 nonmusicians. Cortical thickness was greater in musicians with peaks in superior temporal and dorsolateral frontal regions. Correlations between 2 seed points, centered on peaks of thickness difference within the right frontal cortex, and all other points across the cortex showed greater specificity of significant correlations among musicians, with fewer and more discrete areas correlating with the frontal seeds, including the superior temporal cortex. VBM of gray matter (GM)-classified voxels yielded a strongly right-lateralized focus of greater GM concentration in musicians centered on the posterolateral aspect of Heschl's gyrus. Together, these results are consistent with functional evidence emphasizing the importance of a frontotemporal network of areas heavily relied upon in the performance of musical tasks. Among musicians, contrasts of AP possessors and nonpossessors showed significantly thinner cortex among possessors in a number of areas, including the posterior dorsal frontal cortices that have been previously implicated in the performance of AP tasks.