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Psychophysiology. 2013 Jul;50(7):653-63. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12049. Epub 2013 May 9.

Modulated neural processing of Western harmony in folk musicians.

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  • 1Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


A chord deviating from the conventions of Western tonal music elicits an early right anterior negativity (ERAN) in inferofrontal brain regions. Here, we tested whether the ERAN is modulated by expertise in more than one music culture, as typical of folk musicians. Finnish folk musicians and nonmusicians participated in electroencephalography recordings. The cadences consisted of seven chords. In incongruous cadences, the third, fifth, or seventh chord was a Neapolitan. The ERAN to the Neapolitans was enhanced in folk musicians compared to nonmusicians. Folk musicians showed an enhanced P3a for the ending Neapolitan. The Neapolitan at the fifth position was perceived differently and elicited a late enhanced ERAN in folk musicians. Hence, expertise in more than one music culture seems to modify chord processing by enhancing the ERAN to ambivalent chords and the P3a to incongruous chords, and by altering their perceptual attributes.

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