Music in the Brain - MINDLab


You are here:  Projects » MINDLab Projects » Cognition, Language and Music » Music in the Brain
You are not logged in [Login]

Music in the Brain

Coordinator: Peter Vuust
CFIN/Royal Academy of Music Aarhus
Health, Aarhus University

Research topic 1: Musical harmony has been suggested as an analogue to syntax in language. It is processed in similar brain structures, and it is indexed by a component of the event-related potential (ERP), i.e., the early right anterior negativity (ERAN), similarly to the way syntax in language is reflected in the early left anterior negativity. However, it is yet unclear whether the ERAN is distinguishable from the mismatch negativity (MMN), another ERP-component with almost the same latency and polarity. We intend to study musicians and non-musicians using our newly developed EEG-paradigm (Leino 2007) in which we are able to directly compare the ERAN and the MMN to harmony. We hypothesize that the two components have distinct profiles (amplitude, localization, latency and relation to harmonic function), and that the difference between the two correlates with levels of musical expertise. 

Research topic 2: We seek to examine the relation between musical expertise, brain structure, and brain function. Our earlier functional MR-studies showed an interaction between processing of tension created by polyrhythmic structures in music, bilateral inferior frontal activation, and rhythmic expertise (Vuust 2006). We intend to examine the relationship between grey-matter volume in the inferior frontal gyrus and rhythmic expertise. We predict the two to correlate, since gray-matter volume in brain areas related to music performance has been found to correlate with music expertise. 

Research topic 3: The mismatch negativity (the MMNm) is a strong indicator of musical expertise in adults. Superiority in the auditory processing of different musical parameters, such as pitch, rhythm, intensity, sound source localization, and timbre is reflected in the MMNm. Using a novel multi-feature MMN-approach we intend to do two things, (i) develop a short, musically relevant, multi-feature MMN-paradigm that tests for the above-mentioned musical parameters, and (ii) test whether the MMNm correlates with levels of expertise. This topic offers a unique opportunity to investigate neuroplasticity in humans, i.e. how learning and competence affect the brain. 

Research strategy: Among other techniques, we intend to utilize methods for correlating fMRI-data between subjects (with Synchronicity Methods and Pragmatics in the Brain) and fiber-tracking techniques (fiber- tracking study on musicians with absolute pitch with NEW NEUROIMAGING METHODS), and we plan to study dopamine release in relation to music performance (a study with INTEGRATIVE NEUROSCIENCE).

The MINDLab Music in the Brain activities are embedded in the research group Music in the Brain.

Comments on content: 

Revised 7-5-2012