The Cortical Topography of Tonal Structures Underlying Western Music

  title={The Cortical Topography of Tonal Structures Underlying Western Music},
  author={Petr Janata and Jeffrey L. Birk and John Darrell Van Horn and Marc Leman and Barbara Tillmann and Jamshed J. Bharucha},
  pages={2167 - 2170}
Western tonal music relies on a formal geometric structure that determines distance relationships within a harmonic or tonal space. In functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments, we identified an area in the rostromedial prefrontal cortex that tracks activation in tonal space. Different voxels in this area exhibited selectivity for different keys. Within the same set of consistently activated voxels, the topography of tonality selectivity rearranged itself across scanning sessions. The… 
Neural correlates of tonality in music
The paper presents fMRI results from experiments of subjects listening to musical stimuli. In this study we examine the neural correlates of tonality by presenting a set of stimuli with key changes
Navigating Tonal Space
The question of how tonal structures in music are perceived and represented by the human mind has been approached by multiple disciplines, primarily music theory and cognitive psychology, and more
3 Navigating Tonal Space
The question of how tonal structures in music are perceived and represented by the human mind has been approached by multiple disciplines, primarily music theory and cognitive psychology, and more
The Neural Locus of Temporal Structure and Expectancies in Music: Evidence From Functional Neuroimaging At 3 Tesla
The neuroanatomical correlates of temporal structure and expectancies in music were investigated using a unique stimulus manipulation involving scrambled music. The experiment compared brain
Brain Networks That Track Musical Structure
  • P. Janata
  • Psychology, Biology
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2005
Very early evidence is emerging from the literature for the hypothesis that the rostral medial prefrontal cortex is a node that is important for binding music with memories within a broader music‐responsive network.
Lateral prefrontal cortex as a hub for music production with gradation from structural rules to movement sequences
This work combined functional and diffusion-weighted neuroimaging to dissociate high-level structural and low-level motor planning of musical chord sequences executed on a piano.
Structural and functional asymmetry of lateral Heschl's gyrus reflects pitch perception preference
The authors' data link relative hemispheric lateralization with perceptual stimulus properties, whereas the absolute size of the Heschl's gyrus depends on musical aptitude, and MRI and magnetoencephalography studies demonstrated a strong neural basis for both types of pitch perception irrespective of musical aptitudes.


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This work demonstrates the acquisition of implicit knowledge of tonal structure through neural self-organization resulting from mere exposure to simultaneous and sequential combinations of tones.
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The present experiment designed to localize the neural substrates that process music-syntactic incongruities, using magnetoencephalography (MEG), finds that these areas are also responsible for an analysis of incoming harmonic sequences, indicating that these regions process syntactic information that is less language-specific than previously believed.
Processing Syntactic Relations in Language and Music: An Event-Related Potential Study
The results argue against the language-specificity of the P600 and suggest that language and music can be studied in parallel to address questions of neural specificity in cognitive processing.
Emotional responses to pleasant and unpleasant music correlate with activity in paralimbic brain regions
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Music Perception and Cognition Following Bilateral Lesions of Auditory Cortex
Observations suggest that sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functions mediating tonal information processing in music are neurologically dissociable, and musical priming may be mediated by broadly tuned subcomponents of the thala-mocortical auditory system.
Tonal Pitch Space
A different model of pitch space that treats pitches, chords, and regions within one framework, correlates with the experimental data, and connects in interesting ways with a variety of music theories is introduced.
Brain Indices of Music Processing: Nonmusicians are Musical
The amplitudes of both early and late negativities were found to be sensitive to the degree of musical expectancy induced by the preceding harmonic context, and to the probability for deviant acoustic events.
Lateralization of phonetic and pitch discrimination in speech processing.
Processing changes in pitch produced activation of the right prefrontal cortex, consistent with the importance of right-hemisphere mechanisms in pitch perception.
Neural mechanisms underlying melodic perception and memory for pitch
It is concluded that specialized neural systems in the right superior temporal cortex participate in perceptual analysis of melodies; pitch comparisons are effected via a neural network that includes right prefrontal cortex, but active retention of pitch involves the interaction of right temporal and frontal cortices.
Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch
1. Objectives and Methods 2. Quantifying Tonal Hierarchies and Key Distances 3. Musical Correlates of Perceived Tonal Hierarchies 4. A Key-Finding Algorithm Based on Tonal Hierarchies 5. Perceived