Child playing violin

Simply the best

What does it take to be musically gifted?

Slice open the skull and a neuroanatomist could instantly spot signs of a professional musician. Musicians typically have an enlarged corpus callosum – the cables that pass from one side of the brain to the other. Certain areas of the cortex would also be well-developed, particularly those dealing with sound, motor coordination and hand–eye coordination.

A violinist’s brain might show enhanced grey matter in the motor areas specifically associated with the fingers of the left hand (used for fingering). He or she might also show greater activation in auditory areas in response to violin tones than to trumpet tones.

There is also evidence that musicians use their brains in a different way, engaging a more ‘analytical’ strategy than non-musicians when listening to melodies.

So musicians’ brains are different. Studies are now underway to see how the brains of musicians change as they go through their training.

Lead image:

Fiona Pragoff, Wellcome Images CC BY NC ND


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Music, Mind and Medicine’ in June 2009 and reviewed and updated in July 2014.

Neuroscience, Psychology
Music, Mind and Medicine
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development