Musical syntax is processed in Broca's area: an MEG study

Nat Neurosci. 2001 May;4(5):540-5. doi: 10.1038/87502.


The present experiment was designed to localize the neural substrates that process music-syntactic incongruities, using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Electrically, such processing has been proposed to be indicated by early right-anterior negativity (ERAN), which is elicited by harmonically inappropriate chords occurring within a major-minor tonal context. In the present experiment, such chords elicited an early effect, taken as the magnetic equivalent of the ERAN (termed mERAN). The source of mERAN activity was localized in Broca's area and its right-hemisphere homologue, areas involved in syntactic analysis during auditory language comprehension. We find 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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Music / psychology*