Musical experience shapes human brainstem encoding of linguistic pitch patterns

Nat Neurosci. 2007 Apr;10(4):420-2. doi: 10.1038/nn1872. Epub 2007 Mar 11.


Music and speech are very cognitively demanding auditory phenomena generally attributed to cortical rather than subcortical circuitry. We examined brainstem encoding of linguistic pitch and found that musicians show more robust and faithful encoding compared with nonmusicians. These results not only implicate a common subcortical manifestation for two presumed cortical functions, but also a possible reciprocity of corticofugal speech and music tuning, providing neurophysiological explanations for musicians' higher language-learning ability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Occupations
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Time Factors