Reading music and words: The anatomical connectivity of musicians’ visual cortex

Florence Bouhali, Valeria Mongelli, Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Laurent Cohen
NeuroImage. 2020-05-01; 212: 116666
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116666

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Bouhali F(1), Mongelli V(2), Thiebaut de Schotten M(3), Cohen L(4).

Author information:
(1)Sorbonne Université, Inserm U 1127, CNRS UMR 7225, Institut du Cerveau et de
la Moelle épinière, ICM, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, 75013, Paris, France;
Department of Psychiatry & Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of
California, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA. Electronic address:
(2)Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for
Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Department of Psychology, University of
Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC),
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
(3)Brain Connectivity and Behaviour Laboratory, Sorbonne Universities, Paris,
France; Groupe d’Imagerie Neurofonctionnelle, Institut des Maladies
Neurodégénératives-UMR 5293, CNRS, CEA University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.
(4)Sorbonne Université, Inserm U 1127, CNRS UMR 7225, Institut du Cerveau et de
la Moelle épinière, ICM, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, 75013, Paris, France;
Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital de la Pitié Salpêtrière,
Fédération de Neurologie, F-75013, Paris, France.

Musical score reading and word reading have much in common, from their historical
origins to their cognitive foundations and neural correlates. In the ventral
occipitotemporal cortex (VOT), the specialization of the so-called Visual Word
Form Area for word reading has been linked to its privileged structural
connectivity to distant language regions. Here we investigated how anatomical
connectivity relates to the segregation of regions specialized for musical
notation or words in the VOT. In a cohort of professional musicians and
non-musicians, we used probabilistic tractography combined with task-related
functional MRI to identify the connections of individually defined word- and
music-selective left VOT regions. Despite their close proximity, these regions
differed significantly in their structural connectivity, irrespective of musical
expertise. The music-selective region was significantly more connected to
posterior lateral temporal regions than the word-selective region, which,
conversely, was significantly more connected to anterior ventral temporal cortex.
Furthermore, musical expertise had a double impact on the connectivity of the
music region. First, music tracts were significantly larger in musicians than in
non-musicians, associated with marginally higher connectivity to perisylvian
music-related areas. Second, the spatial similarity between music and word tracts
was significantly increased in musicians, consistently with the increased overlap
of language and music functional activations in musicians, as compared to
non-musicians. These results support the view that, for music as for words, very
specific anatomical connections influence the specialization of distinct VOT
areas, and that reciprocally those connections are selectively enhanced by the
expertise for word or music reading.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.


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