Musical Sound Processing in the Human Brain

Evidence from Electric and Magnetic Recordings



    Corresponding author
    1. Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, and Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
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Address for correspondence: Dr. Mari Tervaniemi, Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, P.O. Box 13, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. Voice: +358-9-1912-3408; fax: +358-9-1912-2924;


Abstract: Recently, our knowledge regarding the brain's ability to represent invariant features of musical information even during the performance of a simultaneous task (unrelated to the sounds) has accumulated rapidly. Recordings of the change-specific mismatch negativity component of event-related brain potentials have shown that temporally and spectrally complex sounds as well as their relations are automatically processed by human auditory cortex. Furthermore, recent magnetoencephalographic and positron emission topographic investigations indicate that this processing differs between phonetic and musical sounds within and between the cerebral hemispheres. These data thus suggest that despite the focus of listeners' conscious attention, relatively complex sound phenomena can be encoded by neural mechanisms that are specialized for musical sounds.