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Musicianship-Related Structural and Functional Cortical Features Are Preserved in Elderly Musicians


Rus-Oswald, Oana Georgiana; Benner, Jan; Reinhardt, Julia; Bürki, Céline; Christiner, Markus; Hofmann, Elke; Schneider, Peter; Stippich, Christoph; Kressig, Reto Werner; Blatow, Maria (2022). Musicianship-Related Structural and Functional Cortical Features Are Preserved in Elderly Musicians. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 14:807971.

Abstract

Background

Professional musicians are a model population for exploring basic auditory function, sensorimotor and multisensory integration, and training-induced neuroplasticity. The brain of musicians exhibits distinct structural and functional cortical features; however, little is known about how these features evolve during aging. This multiparametric study aimed to examine the functional and structural neural correlates of lifelong musical practice in elderly professional musicians.

Methods

Sixteen young musicians, 16 elderly musicians (age >70), and 15 elderly non-musicians participated in the study. We assessed gray matter metrics at the whole-brain and region of interest (ROI) levels using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the Freesurfer automatic segmentation and reconstruction pipeline. We used BrainVoyager semiautomated segmentation to explore individual auditory cortex morphotypes. Furthermore, we evaluated functional blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activations in auditory and non-auditory regions by functional MRI (fMRI) with an attentive tone-listening task. Finally, we performed discriminant function analyses based on structural and functional ROIs.

Results

A general reduction of gray matter metrics distinguished the elderly from the young subjects at the whole-brain level, corresponding to widespread natural brain atrophy. Age- and musicianship-dependent structural correlations revealed group-specific differences in several clusters including superior, middle, and inferior frontal as well as perirolandic areas. In addition, the elderly musicians exhibited increased gyrification of auditory cortex like the young musicians. During fMRI, the elderly non-musicians activated predominantly auditory regions, whereas the elderly musicians co-activated a much broader network of auditory association areas, primary and secondary motor areas, and prefrontal and parietal regions like, albeit weaker, the young musicians. Also, group-specific age- and musicianship-dependent functional correlations were observed in the frontal and parietal regions. Moreover, discriminant function analysis could separate groups with high accuracy based on a set of specific structural and functional, mainly temporal and occipital, ROIs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite naturally occurring senescence, the elderly musicians maintained musicianship-specific structural and functional cortical features. The identified structural and functional brain regions, discriminating elderly musicians from non-musicians, might be of relevance for the aging musicians' brain. To what extent lifelong musical activity may have a neuroprotective impact needs to be addressed further in larger longitudinal studies.

Abstract

Background

Professional musicians are a model population for exploring basic auditory function, sensorimotor and multisensory integration, and training-induced neuroplasticity. The brain of musicians exhibits distinct structural and functional cortical features; however, little is known about how these features evolve during aging. This multiparametric study aimed to examine the functional and structural neural correlates of lifelong musical practice in elderly professional musicians.

Methods

Sixteen young musicians, 16 elderly musicians (age >70), and 15 elderly non-musicians participated in the study. We assessed gray matter metrics at the whole-brain and region of interest (ROI) levels using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the Freesurfer automatic segmentation and reconstruction pipeline. We used BrainVoyager semiautomated segmentation to explore individual auditory cortex morphotypes. Furthermore, we evaluated functional blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activations in auditory and non-auditory regions by functional MRI (fMRI) with an attentive tone-listening task. Finally, we performed discriminant function analyses based on structural and functional ROIs.

Results

A general reduction of gray matter metrics distinguished the elderly from the young subjects at the whole-brain level, corresponding to widespread natural brain atrophy. Age- and musicianship-dependent structural correlations revealed group-specific differences in several clusters including superior, middle, and inferior frontal as well as perirolandic areas. In addition, the elderly musicians exhibited increased gyrification of auditory cortex like the young musicians. During fMRI, the elderly non-musicians activated predominantly auditory regions, whereas the elderly musicians co-activated a much broader network of auditory association areas, primary and secondary motor areas, and prefrontal and parietal regions like, albeit weaker, the young musicians. Also, group-specific age- and musicianship-dependent functional correlations were observed in the frontal and parietal regions. Moreover, discriminant function analysis could separate groups with high accuracy based on a set of specific structural and functional, mainly temporal and occipital, ROIs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite naturally occurring senescence, the elderly musicians maintained musicianship-specific structural and functional cortical features. The identified structural and functional brain regions, discriminating elderly musicians from non-musicians, might be of relevance for the aging musicians' brain. To what extent lifelong musical activity may have a neuroprotective impact needs to be addressed further in larger longitudinal studies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neuroradiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Aging
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:2022
Deposited On:17 May 2022 14:53
Last Modified:27 Apr 2024 01:37
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1663-4365
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2022.807971
PubMed ID:35401149
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)