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Keywords:

  • event-related potential;
  • evoked potential;
  • harmony;
  • melody;
  • musician

Abstract

The effects of musical training on the early auditory cortical response to pitch transitions in music were investigated by use of the change-N1 component of auditory event-related potentials. Musicians and non-musicians were presented with music stimuli comprising a melody and a harmony under various listening conditions. First, when the subjects played a video game and were instructed to ignore the auditory stimuli, the onset of stimuli elicited a typical, fronto-central onset-N1, whereas melodic and harmonic pitch transitions within the stimuli elicited so-called change-N1s that were more posterior in scalp distribution. The pitch transition change-N1s, but not onset-N1, were enhanced in musicians. Second, when the listeners attended to the same stimuli as above to detect infrequently occurring target stimuli, the change-N1 elicited by pitch changes (in non-target stimuli) was augmented, in non-musicians only when the target was easily detectable, and in both musicians and non-musicians when it was difficult to detect. Thus, the early, obligatory cortical response to pitch transitions during passive listening was chronically enhanced by training in musicians, and, reflecting this training-induced enhancement, the task-related modulation of this response was also different between musicians and non-musicians. These results are the first to demonstrate the long-term effects of training, short-term effects of task and the effects of their interaction on the early (~100-ms) cortical processing of pitch transitions in music. The scalp distributions of these enhancement effects were generally right dominant at temporal electrode sites, suggesting contributions from the radially oriented subcomponent of change-N1, namely, the Tb (N1c) wave of the T-complex.