Musical training proven again to enhance P3a and P3b plasticity

The following is an excerpt from a recent project done in Finland regarding plasticity of the P300 ERP for infrequent target sounds, and whether or not the short-term plasticity of the P3a and P3b responses are enhanced in musicians. What did they find? Musicians were better than nonmusicians at discriminating target deviants. Not only this, but regardless of musical training, a higher working memory function also produced better discrimination.

Why this is important: This means, in line with our current knowledge of musical training, short-term plasticity, and working memory, this is just one more study to concrete the fact that musical training enhances P3a and P3b plasticity.I find this interesting largely due to my current research at the university regarding ASD, working memory models and music.

 

Music training enhances the rapid plasticity of P3a/P3b event-related brain potentials for unattended and attended target sounds (Seppänen, Pesonen, and Tervaniemi, 2012) 

Institute of Behavioural Sciences/Cognitive Brain Research Unit, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 1 B), FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland.

Neurocognitive studies have shown that extensive musical training enhances P3a and P3b event-related potentials for infrequent target sounds, which reflects stronger attention switching and stimulus evaluation in musicians than in nonmusicians. However, it is unknown whether the short-term plasticity of P3a and P3b responses is also enhanced in musicians. We compared the short-term plasticity of P3a and P3b responses to infrequent target sounds in musicians and nonmusicians during auditory perceptual learning tasks. Target sounds, deviating in location, pitch, and duration with three difficulty levels, were interspersed among frequently presented standard sounds in an oddball paradigm. We found that during passive exposure to sounds, musicians had habituation of the P3a, while nonmusicians showed enhancement of the P3a between blocks. Between active tasks, P3b amplitudes for duration deviants were reduced (habituated) in musicians only, and showed a more posterior scalp topography for habituation when compared to P3bs of nonmusicians. In both groups, the P3a and P3b latencies were shortened for deviating sounds. Also, musicians were better than nonmusicians at discriminating target deviants. Regardless of musical training, better discrimination was associated with higher working memory capacity. We concluded that music training enhances short-term P3a/P3b plasticity, indicating training-induced changes in attentional skills.

 

And for my Italian friends:

Gli studi neurocognitivi hanno mostrato che una estensiva istruzione musicale aumenta le risposte dei potenziali evocati evento-correlati P3a e P3b per suoni non frequenti, riflettendo una maggiore capacità di attenzione e di valutazione nei confronti dello stimolo musicale nei musicisti, piuttosto che nei non musicisti. Non si conosce ancora in ogni caso se anche le risposte a breve termine siano aumentate nei musicisti, per questo gli Autori hanno comparato le risposte P3a e P3b durante un test di apprendimento percettivo nei musicisti e non. I suoni target, differenti per localizzazione, toni e durata secondo tre differenti livelli di difficoltà, sono stati mischiati con suoni frequenti in un paradigma oddball (con uno stimolo deviante inserito in una serie di stimoli uguali). Gli Autori hanno rilevato che durante l’esposizione passiva ai suoni i musicisti presentavano un certo grado di adattamento (diminuzione) nel potenziale P3a, mentre i non musicisti mostravano un aumento della risposta tra i vari blocchi di suoni. Tra un test e l’altro, le ampiezze di P3b per le deviazioni di durata sono state ridotte in conseguenza dell’adattamento solo nei musicisti, e mostravano una topografia posteriore nello scalpo se comparate alle risposte dei non musicisti. In entrambi i gruppi, le latenze P3a e P3b erano ridotte nei confronti dei suoni devianti, ma i musicisti avevano una migliore capacità di discriminare i target devianti. Indipendentemente dal training musicale, una migliore discriminazione era associata a una più alta capacità di memoria di lavoro. Gli Autori hanno concluso che il training musicale aumenta la plasticità a breve termine P3a/P3b, indicando che esistono dei cambiamenti attentivi indotti dal training musicale.

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