Nature Reviews Neuroscience 8, 547-558 (July 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrn2152

When the brain plays music: auditory–motor interactions in music perception and production

Robert J. Zatorre1,2, Joyce L. Chen1,2 & Virginia B. Penhune2,3  About the authors


Music performance is both a natural human activity, present in all societies, and one of the most complex and demanding cognitive challenges that the human mind can undertake. Unlike most other sensory–motor activities, music performance requires precise timing of several hierarchically organized actions, as well as precise control over pitch interval production, implemented through diverse effectors according to the instrument involved. We review the cognitive neuroscience literature of both motor and auditory domains, highlighting the value of studying interactions between these systems in a musical context, and propose some ideas concerning the role of the premotor cortex in integration of higher order features of music with appropriately timed and organized actions.

Author affiliations

  1. Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, 3801 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  2. BRAMS Laboratory, 1430 Mont-Royal West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  3. Psychology Department, Concordia University, 4000 Sherbrooke Street W, Montreal, Quebec Canada.

Correspondence to: Robert J. Zatorre1,2 Email:


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.


Moving to a different beat

Nature Neuroscience News and Views (01 Oct 2004)

He's got rhythm: single neurons signal timing on a scale of seconds

Nature Neuroscience News and Views (01 Dec 1998)

See all 5 matches for News And Views


Inherited Sense Defects

Scientific American Article (01 May 1952)

See all 16 matches for Research