FMRI/ERP of musical syntax: Comparison of melodies and unstructured note sequences

Ludovico Minati, Cristina Rosazza, Ludovico D'Incerti, Emanuela Pietrocini, Laura Valentini, Vidmer Scaioli, Catherine Loveday, Maria Grazia Bruzzone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, the neural correlates of musical syntax processing have been investigated mainly by means of paradigms in which isolated chords are made incongruent with the harmonic context. Here, we present results obtained contrasting unfamiliar one-part piano melodies with unstructured note sequences, comparable in pitch and rhythm but devoid of any syntactic structure. This paradigm indexes a superset of the cognitive functions involved in processing of harmonic rules. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, differential activation of a bilateral cortical network comprising the inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and premotor cortex was found. Using event-related potentials, the N2 evoked by each note in melodies was found to have longer latency and a more frontal distribution than that evoked in unstructured sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1385
Number of pages5
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Sep 17 2008


  • Broca's area
  • Event-related potentials
  • Functionalmagnetic resonance imaging
  • Melody
  • Music perception
  • Musical syntax
  • N2 component

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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