Musicians Have A Thicker Cerebral Cortex

From a study by Patrick Bermudez, Jason P. Lerch, Alan C. Evans and Robert J. Zatorre:

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 [emphasis added] 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 [emphasis added], 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 [emphasis added] 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 [emphasis added]. 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.

Dont’ panic! You don’t have to be a specialist in neuroanatomy. Wikpedia says: “The cerebral cortex is a structure within the brain that plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.” In this study we see that the cortex is thicker (meaning there’s more of it) in musicians than non-musicians. Therefore a thicker cortex should enable musicians to have more neurons devoted to “memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.” A study by Katherine L. Narr, Roger P. Woods, Paul M. Thompson, Philip Szeszko, Delbert Robinson, Teodora Dimtcheva, Mala Gurbani, Arthur W. Toga and Robert M. Bilder found that a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. Therefore, the fact that musicians have a thicker cortex than non-musicians suggests that musicians are likely to have higher intelligence.

This is not the first study to suggest this–I’ve been blogging about this all along. There are dozens of studies to support the hypothesis that musicians’ brains are more highly developed and I’ll continue to blog about it. But knowing this doesn’t do you any good unless you take action and sign up for music lessons!

See the Neuroanatomy page for an explanation of what the various affected parts of the brain do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Material is copyrighted and may not be rewritten, copied, or republished in any form without explicit written permission. Use the contact page to request permission.

Ready to take the next step? Find out more about private classical piano lessons, private classical singing lessons, private speaking voice lessons, or master classes, by scheduling an interview at no charge and no obligation. I respect your privacy and your email address will not be sold, rented, transferred, added to a list, etc. It will be used only to contact you for schedule changes.