This contribution describes how music can trigger plastic changes in the brain. We elaborate on the concept of neuroplasticity by focussing on three major topics: the ontogenetic scale of musical development, the phenomenon of neuroplasticity as the outcome of interactions with the sounds and a short survey of clinical and therapeutic applications. First, a distinction is made between two scales of description: the larger evolutionary scale (phylogeny) and the scale of individual development (ontogeny). In this sense, listeners are not constrained by a static dispositional machinery, but they can be considered as dynamical systems that are able to adapt themselves in answer to the solicitations of a challenging environment. Second, the neuroplastic changes are considered both from a structural and functional level of adaptation, with a special focus on the recent findings from network science. The neural activity of the medial regions of the brain seems to become more synchronised when listening to music as compared to rest, and these changes become permanent in individuals such as musicians with year-long musical practice. As such, the question is raised as to the clinical and therapeutic applications of music as a trigger for enhancing the functionality of the brain, both in normal and impaired people.
Part of the book: Neuroplasticity