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Title: Musical Experience Relates to Insula-Based Functional Connectivity in Older Adults
Engaging in musical activities throughout the lifespan may protect against age-related cognitive decline and modify structural and functional connectivity in the brain. Prior research suggests that musical experience modulates brain regions that integrate different modalities of sensory information, such as the insula. Most of this research has been performed in individuals classified as professional musicians; however, general musical experiences across the lifespan may also confer beneficial effects on brain health in older adults. The current study investigated whether general musical experience, characterized using the Goldsmith Music Sophistication Index (Gold-MSI), was associated with functional connectivity in older adults (age = 65.7 ± 4.4, n = 69). We tested whether Gold-MSI was associated with individual differences in the functional connectivity of three a priori hypothesis-defined seed regions in the insula (i.e., dorsal anterior, ventral anterior, and posterior insula). We found that older adults with more musical experience showed greater functional connectivity between the dorsal anterior insula and the precentral and postcentral gyrus, and between the ventral anterior insula and diverse brain regions, including the insula and prefrontal cortex, and decreased functional connectivity between the ventral anterior insula and thalamus (voxel p < 0.01, cluster FWE p < 0.05). Follow-up correlation analyses showed that the singing ability subscale score was key in driving the association between functional connectivity differences and musical experience. Overall, our findings suggest that musical experience, even among non-professional musicians, is related to functional brain reorganization in older adults.  more » « less
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Brain Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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