Ways of Making-Sense: Local Gamma Synchronization Reveals Differences Between Semantic Processing Induced by Music and Language

Brain Lang. 2016 Jan;152:44-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2015.12.001. Epub 2015 Dec 29.


Similar to linguistic stimuli, music can also prime the meaning of a subsequent word. However, it is so far unknown what is the brain dynamics underlying the semantic priming effect induced by music, and its relation to language. To elucidate these issues, we compare the brain oscillatory response to visual words that have been semantically primed either by a musical excerpt or by an auditory sentence. We found that semantic violation between music-word pairs triggers a classical ERP N400, and induces a sustained increase of long-distance theta phase synchrony, along with a transient increase of local gamma activity. Similar results were observed after linguistic semantic violation except for gamma activity, which increased after semantic congruence between sentence-word pairs. Our findings indicate that local gamma activity is a neural marker that signals different ways of semantic processing between music and language, revealing the dynamic and self-organized nature of the semantic processing.

Keywords: EEG; ERP N400; Gamma band; Language; Music; Neural synchrony; Semantic processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Gamma Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Semantics*
  • Theta Rhythm
  • Young Adult