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Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 28;8(1):3822. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22144-9.

The right inferior frontal gyrus processes nested non-local dependencies in music.

Author information

1
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany. cheung@cbs.mpg.de.
2
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.
3
Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.

Abstract

Complex auditory sequences known as music have often been described as hierarchically structured. This permits the existence of non-local dependencies, which relate elements of a sequence beyond their temporal sequential order. Previous studies in music have reported differential activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) when comparing regular and irregular chord-transitions based on theories in Western tonal harmony. However, it is unclear if the observed activity reflects the interpretation of hierarchical structure as the effects are confounded by local irregularity. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that violations to non-local dependencies in nested sequences of three-tone musical motifs in musicians elicited increased activity in the right IFG. This is in contrast to similar studies in language which typically report the left IFG in processing grammatical syntax. Effects of increasing auditory working demands are moreover reflected by distributed activity in frontal and parietal regions. Our study therefore demonstrates the role of the right IFG in processing non-local dependencies in music, and suggests that hierarchical processing in different cognitive domains relies on similar mechanisms that are subserved by domain-selective neuronal subpopulations.

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