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The Science and Technology of Music


Research Project: Neuroanatomy of music and speech

Back to Research Field: Music Perception and Cognition

Neuroanatomy of music and speech

  Research Project Information
Runtime: Sep 03, 2004 until Mar 30, 2011
Project coordination: Daniel Levitin
Scientific staff: Evan Balaban; Daniel Levitin

Music and speech are complex sound streams with hierarchical rules of temporal organization that become elaborated over time. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity patterns as subjects listen to natural and temporally reordered musical and speech stimuli matched for familiarity, emotion, and valence. Multivariate classification analysis revealed distinct spatial patterns of brain responses in the 2 domains. Distributed neuronal populations that included the inferior frontal cortex, the posterior and anterior superior and middle temporal gyri, and the auditory brainstem classified temporal structure manipulations in music and speech with significant levels of accuracy. While agreeing with previous findings that music and speech processing share neural substrates, this work shows that temporal structure in the 2 domains is encoded differently, highlighting a fundamental dissimilarity in how the same neural resources are deployed.