Long-term music training tunes how the brain temporally binds signals from multiple senses

Practicing a musical instrument is a rich multisensory experience involving the integration of visual, auditory, and tactile inputs with motor responses. This combined psychophysics-fMRI study used the musician’s brain to investigate how sensory-motor experience molds temporal binding of auditory and visual signals. Behaviorally, musicians exhibited a narrower temporal integration window than nonmusicians for music but not for speech. At the neural level, musicians showed increased audiovisual asynchrony responses and effective connectivity selectively for music in a superior temporal sulcus-premotor-cerebellar circuitry. Critically, the premotor asynchrony effects predicted musicians’ perceptual sensitivity to audiovisual asynchrony. Our results suggest that piano practicing fine tunes an internal forward model mapping from action plans of piano playing onto visible finger movements and sounds. This internal forward model furnishes more precise estimates of the relative audiovisual timings and hence, stronger prediction error signals specifically for asynchronous music in a premotor-cerebellar circuitry. Our findings show intimate links between action production and audiovisual temporal binding in perception.

http://www.pnas.org/content/108/51/E1441. abstract


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