Investigation of melodic contour processing in the brain using multivariate pattern-based fMRI

Neuroimage. 2011 Jul 1;57(1):293-300. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.006. Epub 2011 Feb 21.


Music perception generally involves processing the frequency relationships between successive pitches and extraction of the melodic contour. Previous evidence has suggested that the 'ups' and 'downs' of melodic contour are categorically and automatically processed, but knowledge of the brain regions that discriminate different types of contour is limited. Here, we examined melodic contour discrimination using multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) of fMRI data. Twelve non-musicians were presented with various ascending and descending melodic sequences while being scanned. Whole-brain MVPA was used to identify regions in which the local pattern of activity accurately discriminated between contour categories. We identified three distinct cortical loci: the right superior temporal sulcus (rSTS), the left inferior parietal lobule (lIPL), and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). These results complement previous findings of melodic processing within the rSTS, and extend our understanding of the way in which abstract auditory sequences are categorized by the human brain.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music*