Neural correlates of the Pythagorean ratio rules.


Millennia ago Pythagoras noted a simple but remarkably powerful rule for the aesthetics of tone combinations: pairs of tones--intervals--with simple ratios such as an octave (ratio 2 : 1) or a fifth (ratio 3 : 2) were pleasant sounding (consonant), whereas intervals with complex ratios such as the major seventh (ratio 243 : 128) were harsh (dissonant). These Pythagorean ratio rules are the building blocks of Western classical music; however, their neurophysiologic basis is not known. Using functional MRI we have found the neurophysiologic correlates of the ratio rules. In musicians, the inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule and anterior cingulate respond with progressively more activation to perfect consonances, imperfect consonances and dissonances. In nonmusicians only the right inferior frontal gyrus follows this pattern.

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@article{Foss2007NeuralCO, title={Neural correlates of the Pythagorean ratio rules.}, author={Alexander H Foss and Eric L. Altschuler and Karin Harman James}, journal={Neuroreport}, year={2007}, volume={18 15}, pages={1521-5} }