Cortical motor circuits after piano training in adulthood: Neurophysiologic evidence

Elise Houdayer, Marco Cursi, Arturo Nuara, Sonia Zanini, Roberto Gatti, Giancarlo Comi, Letizia Leocani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neuronal mechanisms involved in brain plasticity after skilled motor learning are not completely understood. We aimed to study the short-term effects of keyboard training in music-naive subjects on the motor/premotor cortex activity and interhemispheric interactions, using electroencephalography and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Twelve subjects (experimental group) underwent, before and after a two week-piano training: (1) hand-motor function tests: Jamar, grip and nine-hole peg tests; (2) electroencephalography, evaluating the mu rhythm task-related desynchronization (TRD) during keyboard performance; and (3) TMS, targeting bilateral abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and abductor digiti minimi (ADM), to obtain duration and area of ipsilateral silent period (ISP) during simultaneous tonic contraction of APB and ADM. Data were compared with 13 controls who underwent twice these measurements, in a two-week interval, without undergoing piano training. Every subject in the experimental group improved keyboard performance and left-hand nine-hole peg test scores. Pre-training, ISP durations were asymmetrical, left being longer than right. Post-training, right ISPAPB increased, leading to symmetrical ISPAPB . Mu TRD during motor performance became more focal and had a lesser amplitude than in pre-training, due to decreased activity over ventral premotor cortices. No such changes were evidenced in controls. We demonstrated that a 10-day piano-training was associated with balanced interhemispheric interactions both at rest and during motor activation. Piano training, in a short timeframe, may reshape local and inter-hemispheric motor cortical circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0157526
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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