From Mind Hacks:
All abilities are skills; practice something and your brain will devote more resources to it.
Brain scanning of musicians has shown that they have larger cortical representations of the body parts they use to play their instruments in their sensory areas — more neurons devoted to finger movements among guitarists, more neurons devoted to lips among trombonists. Musicians’ auditory maps of “tone-space” are larger, with neurons more finely tuned to detecting differences in sounds,1 and orchestra conductors are better at detecting where a sound among a stream of other sounds is coming from.
It’s not surprising that musicians are good at these things, but the neuroimaging evidence shows that practice alters the very maps our brains use to understand the world. This explains why small differences are invisible to beginners, but stark to experts. It also offers a hopeful message to the rest of us: all abilities are skills, if you practice them, your brain will get the message and devote more resources to them.
- Munte, T. F., Altenmuller, E., & Jancke, L. (2002). The musician’s brain as a model for neuroplasticity. Nature Neuroscience Reviews, 3, 473-478. (This is a review paper rather than an original research report.)
Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain by Tom Stafford, Matt Webb
Get this book! The chapter on hearing and language is perfect for musicians.