Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 6, pp 1575–1580 | Cite as

Improved tactile frequency discrimination in musicians

  • Andréanne SharpEmail author
  • M. S. Houde
  • M. Maheu
  • I. Ibrahim
  • F. Champoux
Research Article


Music practice is a multisensory training that is of great interest to neuroscientists because of its implications for neural plasticity. Music-related modulation of sensory systems has been observed in neuroimaging data, and has been supported by results in behavioral tasks. Some studies have shown that musicians react faster than non-musicians to visual, tactile and auditory stimuli. Behavioral enhancement in more complex tasks has received considerably less attention in musicians. This study aims to investigate unisensory and multisensory discrimination capabilities in musicians. More specifically, the goal of this study is to examine auditory, tactile and auditory-tactile discrimination in musicians. The literature suggesting better auditory and auditory-tactile discrimination in musicians is scarce, and no study to date has examined pure tactile discrimination capabilities in musicians. A two-alternative forced-choice frequency discrimination task was used in this experiment. The task was inspired by musical production, and participants were asked to identify whether a frequency was the same as or different than a standard stimulus of 160 Hz in three conditions: auditory only, auditory-tactile only and tactile only. Three waveforms were used to replicate the variability of pitch that can be found in music. Stimuli were presented through headphones for auditory stimulation and a glove with haptic audio exciters for tactile stimulation. Results suggest that musicians have lower discrimination thresholds than non-musicians for auditory-only and auditory-tactile conditions for all waveforms. The results also revealed that musicians have lower discrimination thresholds than non-musicians in the tactile condition for sine and square waveforms. Taken together, these results support the hypothesis that musical training can lead to better unisensory tactile discrimination which is in itself a new and major finding.


Music Tactile Multisensory training Brain plasticity 



Funding was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2016-05211).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.École d’orthophonie et d’audiologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck SurgeryMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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