Symposium: MMN, music, and life span
Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015
Hörsaal 3

Do formal and informal musical activities accelerate the development of neural sound discrimination?

Vesa Putkinen

Deparment of Music, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

Cross-sectional mismatch negativity (MMN) studies have revealed enhanced neural sound discrimination in musicians. However, it is unclear whether these augmentations reflect experience-induced plasticity or pre-training neural enhancement in individuals who seek out and persist in musical training.

Our recent longitudinal studies indicate that school-aged children who receive formal musical training show greater increase in MMN and P3a amplitudes with age than children without musical training. Importantly, there was no evidence for pre-training group differences in response amplitudes. In a related cross-sectional study, we found ERP and behavioral evidence that suggests improved executive functions and top-down control over auditory novelty processing in musically trained children and adolescents.

In a second set of studies, we explored the relation between informal musical activities and neural sound discrimination in preschool-aged children. Children who attended a musical playschool from the age of 2 to 6 years displayed more rapid development of MMN-like responses than those with shorter attendance at a musical playschool.

Compared to previous cross sectional studies, our longitudinal data provides better evidence for a causal role of musical experience in shaping the development of neural sound discrimination reflected by the MMN and P3a. They do not however refute the possibility that, in addition to musical experience, genetic factors might also contribute to differences in MMN–P3a complex between musicians and non-musicians.