The music of speech: music training facilitates pitch processing in both music and language

Psychophysiology. 2004 May;41(3):341-9. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.00172.x.


The main aim of the present experiment was to determine whether extensive musical training facilitates pitch contour processing not only in music but also in language. We used a parametric manipulation of final notes' or words' fundamental frequency (F0), and we recorded behavioral and electrophysiological data to examine the precise time course of pitch processing. We compared professional musicians and nonmusicians. Results revealed that within both domains, musicians detected weak F0 manipulations better than nonmusicians. Moreover, F0 manipulations within both music and language elicited similar variations in brain electrical potentials, with overall shorter onset latency for musicians than for nonmusicians. Finally, the scalp distribution of an early negativity in the linguistic task varied with musical expertise, being largest over temporal sites bilaterally for musicians and largest centrally and over left temporal sites for nonmusicians. These results are taken as evidence that extensive musical training influences the perception of pitch contour in spoken language.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology