An fMRI study of music sight-reading

Neuroreport. 2002 Dec 3;13(17):2285-9. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200212030-00023.


The brain areas involved in music reading were investigated using fMRI. In order to evaluate the specificity of these areas we compared reading music notation to reading verbal and number notations in a task that required professional pianists to play the notes (in musical and verbal notations) and the numbers displayed on a 5-key keyboard. Overall, the three tasks revealed a similar pattern of activated brain areas. However, direct contrasts between the music notation and the verbal or the numerical notation tasks also revealed specific major foci of activation in the right occipito-temporal junction, superior parietal lobule and the intraparietal sulcus. We interpret the right occipito-temporal difference as due to differences at the encoding level between notes, words and numbers. This area might be analogous to one described for words, called the visual word form area. The parietal activations are discussed in terms of visuo-motor transcoding pathways that differ for the three types of notations used. Finally, we present a model of music reading that can possibly explain our findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Models, Neurological
  • Music / psychology*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reading*
  • Symbolism
  • Visual Perception / physiology*