Reduced recruitment of motor association areas during bimanual coordination in concert pianists

Bernhard Haslinger, Peter Erhard, Eckart Altenmüller, Andreas Hennenlotter, Markus Schwaiger, Helga Gräfin Von Einsiedel, Ernst Rummeny, Bastian Conrad, Andrés O. Ceballos-Baumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Bimanual motor coordination is essential for piano playing. The functional neuronal substrate for high-level bimanual performance achieved by professional pianists is unclear. We compared professional pianists to musically naïve controls while carrying out in-phase (mirror) and anti-phase (parallel) bimanual sequential finger movements during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This task corresponds to bimanually playing scales practiced daily by pianists from the beginning of piano playing. Musicians and controls showed significantly different functional activation patterns. When comparing performance of parallel movements to rest, musically naïve controls showed stronger activations than did pianists within a network including anterior cingulate cortex, right dorsal premotor cortex, both cerebellar hemispheres, and right basal ganglia. The direct comparison of bimanual parallel to mirror movements between both groups revealed stronger signal increases in controls within mesial premotor cortex (SMA), bilateral cerebellar hemispheres and vermis, bilateral prefrontal cortex, left ventral premotor cortex, right anterior insula, and right basal ganglia. These findings suggest increased efficiency of cortical and subcortical systems for bimanual movement control in musicians. This may be fundamental to achieve high-level motor skills allowing the musician to focus on artistic aspects of musical performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-215
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Efficiency
  • Music
  • Plasticity
  • Sensorimotor
  • fMRI


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