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Keywords:

  • event-related magnetic fields (ERF);
  • magnetoencephalography (MEG);
  • mismatch negativity (MMN);
  • musical expertise;
  • musicality

Abstract

The brain basis behind musical competence in its various forms is not yet known. To determine the pattern of hemispheric lateralization during sound-change discrimination, we recorded the magnetic counterpart of the electrical mismatch negativity (MMNm) responses in professional musicians, musical participants (with high scores in the musicality tests but without professional training in music) and non-musicians. While watching a silenced video, they were presented with short sounds with frequency and duration deviants and C major chords with C minor chords as deviants. MMNm to chord deviants was stronger in both musicians and musical participants than in non-musicians, particularly in their left hemisphere. No group differences were obtained in the MMNm strength in the right hemisphere in any of the conditions or in the left hemisphere in the case of frequency or duration deviants. Thus, in addition to professional training in music, musical aptitude (combined with lower-level musical training) is also reflected in brain functioning related to sound discrimination. The present magnetoencephalographic evidence therefore indicates that the sound discrimination abilities may be differentially distributed in the brain in musically competent and naïve participants, especially in a musical context established by chord stimuli: the higher forms of musical competence engage both auditory cortices in an integrative manner.