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6) In this study, we aimed to examine the relation between white matter microstructure and high-level motor skills by contrasting 2 groups of musicians with different instrument-specific motor requirements.
* Differential adaptation of descending motor tracts in musicians.
- Between-group comparisons of musicians and nonmusicians have revealed structural brain differences and also functional differences in motor performance. In this study, we aimed to examine the relation between white matter microstructure and high-level motor skills by contrasting 2 groups of musicians with different instrument-specific motor requirements. We used diffusion tensor imaging to compare diffusivity measures of different corticospinal motor tracts of 10 keyboard players, 10 string players, and 10 nonmusicians. Additionally, the maximal tapping rates of their left and right index fingers were determined. When compared with nonmusicians, fractional anisotropy (FA) values of right-hemispheric motor tracts were significantly higher in both musician groups, whereas left-hemispheric motor tracts showed significantly higher FA values only in the keyboard players. Voxel-wise FA analysis found a group effect in white matter underlying the right motor cortex. Diffusivity measures of fibers originating in the primary motor cortex correlated with the maximal tapping rate of the contralateral index finger across all groups. The observed between-group diffusivity differences might represent an adaptation to the specific motor demands of the respective musical instrument. This is supported further by finding correlations between diffusivity measures and maximal tapping rates.