Brain organization for music processing

Annu Rev Psychol. 2005:56:89-114. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070225.


Research on how the brain processes music is emerging as a rich and stimulating area of investigation of perception, memory, emotion, and performance. Results emanating from both lesion studies and neuroimaging techniques are reviewed and integrated for each of these musical functions. We focus our attention on the common core of musical abilities shared by musicians and nonmusicians alike. Hence, the effect of musical training on brain plasticity is examined in a separate section, after a review of the available data regarding music playing and reading skills that are typically cultivated by musicians. Finally, we address a currently debated issue regarding the putative existence of music-specific neural networks. Unfortunately, due to scarcity of research on the macrostructure of music organization and on cultural differences, the musical material under focus is at the level of the musical phrase, as typically used in Western popular music.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Music*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Time Perception / physiology