Neuronal Changes in Auditory Cortex due to Musical Training

In this project we examine potential changes of the brain caused by musical training. In recent years, there have been an increasing number of indications that the structure of the human brain can adapt to specific demands. For example, as compared to a control group, taxi drivers in London were shown to possess more grey matter in the part of the brain that is responsible for spatial navigation (Maguire et al., 2004, Nature). Musicians have already been discovered as especially interesting “objects” of study because they train intensively (Münte, Altenmüller & Jäncke, 2002, Nature Reviews Neuroscience). Easily identifiable specific brain regions such as the auditory cortex and also motor regions provide optimal conditions for the examination of brain plasticity.

Hieronymus Bosch (around 1450 – 1516)
Das Feld hat Augen, der Wald hat Ohren [The field has eyes, the forest has ears]

Foto: Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Fotograf: Jörg P. Anders, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE


We are particularly interested in the differences between two groups:

  • On the one hand, music school attendees who want to study music at a university and are therefore taking part in a preparatory course involving intensive aural training. We are examining beginners with a focus on sound engineering, composition, conducting, as well as instrumentalists.
  • On the other hand, music school attendees who take music lessons as a hobby and are not aiming for a university degree.

There are already some indications that the brain structure of professional musicians differs from that of amateur musicians and non-musicians. To date, the development of these differences, particularly in auditory cortex, are not yet sufficiently studied. In order to shed more light on this issue, we examined prospective professional musicians in a magnetic resonance imager (MRI) during their intensive preparation course for a university course and focussed on the structural changes in the auditory cortex. We also scanned music school attendees who were not taking part in this course in order to filter and represent differences in their brain structure.


Papadaki, E., Koustakas, T., Werner, A., Lindenberger, U., Kühn, S., & Wenger, E. (2023). Resting-state functional connectivity in an auditory network differs between aspiring professionals and amateur musicians and correlates with performance. Brain Structure and Function, 228(9), 2147–2163.
Lin, Z., Werner, A., Lindenberger, U., Brandmaier, A. M., & Wenger, E. (2021). Assessing music expertise: The Berlin Gehoerbildung Scale. Music Perception, 38(4), 406–421.
Wenger, E., Papadaki, E., Werner, A., Kühn, S., & Lindenberger, U. (2021). Observing plasticity of the auditory system: Volumetric decreases along with increased functional connectivity in aspiring professional musicians. Cerebral Cortex Communications, 2(2), Article tgab008.
Go to Editor View