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Keywords:

  • music cognition;
  • melodic expectation;
  • fMRI;
  • statistical learning

Abstract: Research in music cognition has assessed the role of experience by investigating the effects of development, training, and cross-cultural differences. A fourth approach is to apply statistical techniques to identify patterns that are relatively frequent in the listeners' musical experience. As an example of this approach, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was conducted on melodic expectancy. Two patterns that frequently began musical themes in classical and folk music were identified. A final continuation tone was added to these opening patterns. Some of the continuation tones were frequent in the musical styles; others were infrequent. Listeners judged how well the continuation tones fit with their expectations. A sparse-sampling (event-related) design was used in the fMRI study, with image acquisition at varying delays after the sequence. Early acquisitions showed activation in the auditory cortex, and late acquisitions showed effects of the motor response. These results suggest the timing of the image acquisitions was appropriate. Contrasting melodies and monotonic controls showed right inferior frontal activation, similar to that found in other studies. However, no differences were found as a function of whether or not the continuation tone was frequent or infrequent in the statistical style analysis. Methodological differences of this study from other recent fMRI studies on harmonic expectations are discussed.