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Musical syntax is processed in Broca's area: an MEG study

Abstract

The present experiment was designed to localize the neural substrates that process music-syntactic incongruities, using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Electrically, such processing has been proposed to be indicated by early right-anterior negativity (ERAN), which is elicited by harmonically inappropriate chords occurring within a major-minor tonal context. In the present experiment, such chords elicited an early effect, taken as the magnetic equivalent of the ERAN (termed mERAN). The source of mERAN activity was localized in Broca's area and its right-hemisphere homologue, areas involved in syntactic analysis during auditory language comprehension. We find that these areas are also responsible for an analysis of incoming harmonic sequences, indicating that these regions process syntactic information that is less language-specific than previously believed.

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Figure 1: Examples of chord sequences.
Figure 2: Time courses of magnetic field strength.
Figure 3: P2m and mERAN, magnetic field maps.
Figure 4: Mean global field power signals of the mERAN (MGFP averaged over all MEG channels and all subjects).
Figure 5: Grand average dipole solutions for P2m and mERAN.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Leibniz Science Prize awarded to A.D. Friederici by the German Research Foundation.

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Correspondence to Burkhard Maess.

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Maess, B., Koelsch, S., Gunter, T. et al. Musical syntax is processed in Broca's area: an MEG study. Nat Neurosci 4, 540–545 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/87502

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