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The structural components of music perception. A functional anatomical study.

H Platel, C Price, J C Baron, R Wise, J Lambert, R S Frackowiak, B Lechevalier, F Eustache
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/120.2.229 229-243 First published online: 1 February 1997

Summary

This work explores the cerebral structures involved in the appreciation of music. We studied six young healthy subjects (right handed, French, without musical talent), using a high resolution PET device (CTI 953B) and 15O-labelled water. In three tasks, we studied the effects of selective attention to pitch, timbre and rhythm; a final task studied semantic familiarity with tunes (considered as divided attention for pitch and rhythm). These four tasks were performed on the same material (a tape consisting of 30 randomly arranged sequences of notes). We selected a paradigm, without a reference task, to compare the activations produced by attention to different parameters of the same stimulus. We expected that the activations recorded during each task would differ according to the differences in cognitive operations. We found activations preferentially in the left hemisphere for familiarity, pitch tasks and rhythm, and in the right hemisphere for the timbre task. The familiarity task activated the left inferior frontal gyrus, Brodmann area (BA) 47, and superior temporal gyrus (in its anterior part, BA 22). These activations presumably represent lexico-semantic access to melodic representations. In the pitch task, activations were observed in the left cuneus/precuneus (BA 18/19). These results were unexpected and we interpret them as reflecting a visual mental imagery strategy employed to carry out this task. The rhythm task activated left inferior Broca's area (BA 44/6), with extention into the neighbouring insula, suggesting a role for this cerebral region in the processing of sequential sounds.