Beatboxers and Guitarists Engage Sensorimotor Regions Selectively When Listening to the Instruments They can Play

Saloni Krishnan, César F. Lima, Samuel Evans, Sinead Chen, Stella Guldner, Harry Yeff, Tom Manly, Sophie K. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of classical musicians have demonstrated that expertise modulates neural responses during auditory perception. However, it remains unclear whether such expertise-dependent plasticity is modulated by the instrument that a musician plays. To examine whether the recruitment of sensorimotor regions during music perception is modulated by instrument-specific experience, we studied nonclassical musicians - beatboxers, who predominantly use their vocal apparatus to produce sound, and guitarists, who use their hands. We contrast fMRI activity in 20 beatboxers, 20 guitarists, and 20 nonmusicians as they listen to novel beatboxing and guitar pieces. All musicians show enhanced activity in sensorimotor regions (IFG, IPC, and SMA), but only when listening to the musical instrument they can play. Using independent component analysis, we find expertise-selective enhancement in sensorimotor networks, which are distinct from changes in attentional networks. These findings suggest that long-term sensorimotor experience facilitates access to the posterodorsal "how" pathway during auditory processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4063-4079
Number of pages17
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number11
Early online date31 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • auditory perception
  • dorsal stream
  • expertise
  • fMRI
  • musician

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