The influence of expertise on perception, cognition, and brain connectivity by Stefan Elmer (Universität Zürich)
A better understanding of the perceptual and cognitive neural underpinnings underlying exceptional behavioural skills has important educational, societal, as well as clinical implications (i.e., for example in the context of developmental dyslexia, aphasia, and foreign language learning). Here, I will present recent data collected from professional musicians with and without absolute pitch, as well as from simultaneous language interpreters, to reveal how expertise and training has an influence on the functional-structural malleability of perceptual and cognitive subdivisions of the human brain. In the same context, I will also provide some evidence for transfer effects from musicianship to specific aspects of speech processing. Finally, since currently there is no doubt that perceptual and cognitive functions do not work in isolation but are embedded in neuronal assemblies consisting of networks influencing each other's in a reciprocal manner, I will propose some novel methodological approaches for evaluating functional and structural connectivity within small-scale perceptual-cognitive networks in musicians with and without absolute pitch.