Co-localizing linguistic and musical syntax with intracranial EEG

Neuroimage. 2013 Jan 1;64:134-46. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.09.035. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


Despite general agreement on shared syntactic resources in music and language, the neuroanatomical underpinnings of this overlap remain largely unexplored. While previous studies mainly considered frontal areas as supramodal grammar processors, the domain-general syntactic role of temporal areas has been so far neglected. Here we capitalized on the excellent spatial and temporal resolution of subdural EEG recordings to co-localize low-level syntactic processes in music and language in the temporal lobe in a within-subject design. We used Brain Surface Current Density mapping to localize and compare neural generators of the early negativities evoked by violations of phrase structure grammar in both music and spoken language. The results show that the processing of syntactic violations relies in both domains on bilateral temporo-fronto-parietal neural networks. We found considerable overlap of these networks in the superior temporal lobe, but also differences in the hemispheric timing and relative weighting of their fronto-temporal constituents. While alluding to the dissimilarity in how shared neural resources may be configured depending on the musical or linguistic nature of the perceived stimulus, the combined data lend support for a co-localization of early musical and linguistic syntax processing in the temporal lobe.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Young Adult