Modulated neural processing of Western harmony in folk musicians

Authors

  • Elvira Brattico,

    1. Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    2. Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
    3. Brain and Mind Laboratory, Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science (BECS), Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland
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  • Tiina Tupala,

    1. Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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  • Enrico Glerean,

    1. Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
    2. Brain and Mind Laboratory, Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science (BECS), Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland
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  • Mari Tervaniemi

    1. Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    2. Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
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  • This study was financially supported by the BrainTuning project of the European Commission (FP6-2004-NEST-PATH-028570) and the Academy of Finland (project number 133673). We thank Mr. Tommi Makkonen, M.Sci., for his technical help, and Benjamin Gold, B.Sc., and Umberto Trivella, M.Sc., for their assistance in behavioral data collection. A special thanks to Dr. Juha Ojala for his invaluable contribution to the musicological aspects of this paper. We also wish to express our gratitude to all subjects and especially those who agreed to participate at a second behavioral session. Parts of this study were presented at the conference “The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory,” and a summary of the results appeared in the conference proceedings published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Address correspondence to: Elvira Brattico, Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, P. O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 1 B), 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: elvira.brattico@helsinki.fi

Abstract

A chord deviating from the conventions of Western tonal music elicits an early right anterior negativity (ERAN) in inferofrontal brain regions. Here, we tested whether the ERAN is modulated by expertise in more than one music culture, as typical of folk musicians. Finnish folk musicians and nonmusicians participated in electroencephalography recordings. The cadences consisted of seven chords. In incongruous cadences, the third, fifth, or seventh chord was a Neapolitan. The ERAN to the Neapolitans was enhanced in folk musicians compared to nonmusicians. Folk musicians showed an enhanced P3a for the ending Neapolitan. The Neapolitan at the fifth position was perceived differently and elicited a late enhanced ERAN in folk musicians. Hence, expertise in more than one music culture seems to modify chord processing by enhancing the ERAN to ambivalent chords and the P3a to incongruous chords, and by altering their perceptual attributes.

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