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Extensive piano practicing has regionally specific effects on white matter development


Using diffusion tensor imaging, we investigated effects of piano practicing in childhood, adolescence and adulthood on white matter, and found positive correlations between practicing and fiber tract organization in different regions for each age period. For childhood, practicing correlations were extensive and included the pyramidal tract, which was more structured in pianists than in non-musicians. Long-term training within critical developmental periods may thus induce regionally specific plasticity in myelinating tracts.

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Figure 1: Childhood practicing and white matter structure.
Figure 2: Correlations between adolescent and adult practicing and white matter structure.


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We thank I. Agartz (Human Brain Informatics at Karolinska Institutet) and P. Lindberg for providing part of the control data and J. Andersson, S. Grillner and P.E. Roland for valuable discussions and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council, Karolinska Institutet's Research Funds, the Jeansson Foundations, Sällskapet Barnavård and the Freemasons in Stockholm Foundation for Children's Welfare.

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Correspondence to Fredrik Ullén.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

The outline of the cluster in the callosal isthmus, found in the regression analysis with childhood practicing, superimposed on axial sections at z = 24, from the FA images of each individual pianist. (PDF 1555 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

The same as Supplementary Figure 1, for the cluster in the callosal splenium, found in the regression analysis with adolescence practicing. (PDF 1533 kb)

Supplementary Methods (PDF 123 kb)

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Bengtsson, S., Nagy, Z., Skare, S. et al. Extensive piano practicing has regionally specific effects on white matter development. Nat Neurosci 8, 1148–1150 (2005).

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