Musicians’ advantage in an online auditory statistical learning task

Pragati Rao Mandikal Vasuki*, Mridula Sharma, Ronny Ibrahim, Katherine Demuth, Joanne Arciuli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Objectives: Musicians’ brains are considered as a functional model of neuroplasticity due to the structural and functional changes associated with long term musical training. Statistical learning is an implicit ability to extract distributional cues from continuous stream of stimuli. This study investigated if long term musical training is associated with facilitation of extraction of distributional cues in an online auditory statistical learning (ASL) task. Methods: Seventeen musicians and eighteen age- and gender-matched non-musicians participated in the study. Musicians were defined as adults who learnt music before the age of 9 years and had at least 10 years of music playing/singing experience. Auditory event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded as participants listened to continuous pure tones which were organized into sets of triplets based on their distributional cues. ASL task was adapted from (Abla, Katahira, & Okanoya, 2008). Each participant listened to three 7 minute sessions of continuous triplet sequences. Participants also completed a surprise behavioral forced choice task to assess statistical learning. Results: Musicians outperformed non-musicians on the behavioral forced choice task. Frontocentral electrodes were chosen for ERP analysis based on previous findings (Abla et al., 2008; Abla & Okanoya, 2008; François, Jaillet, Takerkart, & Schön, 2014). Irrespective of the group, based on behavioral results, participants who had better statistical learning had larger change in N1-P2 amplitude between the three sessions. Further analysis of ERP responses from session 1 revealed symmetric performance for N1 and N400 amplitude in musicians. Non-musicians had significantly larger N1 and N400 responses on the left fronto-central electrodes. Conclusion: The study provides an insight into the neural mechanisms underlying online auditory statistical learning tasks in age- and gender- matched musicians. Statistical segmentation of continuous stimuli has been previously associated with increased activation in the left fronto- central regions (Abla & Okanoya, 2008). Bilateral fronto-central activation in musicians could be due to the anatomical changes associated with the musical expertise. These findings contribute new behavioral and electrophysiological evidence to the positive effects of musical practice on auditory statistical learning task.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventBiennial Symposium of the International Evoked Response Audiometry Study Group (24th : 2015) - Busan, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 10 May 201514 May 2015


ConferenceBiennial Symposium of the International Evoked Response Audiometry Study Group (24th : 2015)
Abbreviated titleIERASG
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


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