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Cereb Cortex. 2009 Nov;19(11):2625-39. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp021. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

Detecting wrong notes in advance: neuronal correlates of error monitoring in pianists.

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Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians' Medicine, Hanover University of Music and Drama, Hanover 30161, Germany.


Music performance is an extremely rapid process with low incidence of errors even at the fast rates of production required. This is possible only due to the fast functioning of the self-monitoring system. Surprisingly, no specific data about error monitoring have been published in the music domain. Consequently, the present study investigated the electrophysiological correlates of executive control mechanisms, in particular error detection, during piano performance. Our target was to extend the previous research efforts on understanding of the human action-monitoring system by selecting a highly skilled multimodal task. Pianists had to retrieve memorized music pieces at a fast tempo in the presence or absence of auditory feedback. Our main interest was to study the interplay between auditory and sensorimotor information in the processes triggered by an erroneous action, considering only wrong pitches as errors. We found that around 70 ms prior to errors a negative component is elicited in the event-related potentials and is generated by the anterior cingulate cortex. Interestingly, this component was independent of the auditory feedback. However, the auditory information did modulate the processing of the errors after their execution, as reflected in a larger error positivity (Pe). Our data are interpreted within the context of feedforward models and the auditory-motor coupling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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