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Differential roles of right temporal cortex and broca's area in pitch processing: Evidence from music and mandarin


Correspondence to: Yun Nan, National Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, 19 Xin-Wai St., Hai-Dian District, Beijing 100875, People's Republic of China. E-mail:


Superior temporal and inferior frontal cortices are involved in the processing of pitch information in the domain of language and music. Here, we used fMRI to test the particular roles of these brain regions in the neural implementation of pitch in music and in tone language (Mandarin) with a group of Mandarin speaking musicians whose pertaining experiences in pitch are similar across domains. Our findings demonstrate that the neural network for pitch processing includes the pars triangularis of Broca's area and the right superior temporal gyrus (STG) across domains. Within this network, pitch sensitive activation in Broca's area is tightly linked to the behavioral performance of pitch congruity judgment, thereby reflecting controlled processes. Activation in the right STG is independent of performance and more sensitive to pitch congruity in music than in tone language, suggesting a domain-specific modulation of the perceptual processes. These observations provide a first glimpse at the cortical pitch processing network shared across domains. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2045–2054, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.