Direct Electrical Stimulation in the Human Brain Disrupts Melody Processing

Curr Biol. 2017 Sep 11;27(17):2684-2691.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.051. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Prior research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) [1-4] and behavioral studies of patients with acquired or congenital amusia [5-8] suggest that the right posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) in the human brain is specialized for aspects of music processing (for review, see [9-12]). Intracranial electrical brain stimulation in awake neurosurgery patients is a powerful means to determine the computations supported by specific brain regions and networks [13-21] because it provides reversible causal evidence with high spatial resolution (for review, see [22, 23]). Prior intracranial stimulation or cortical cooling studies have investigated musical abilities related to reading music scores [13, 14] and singing familiar songs [24, 25]. However, individuals with amusia (congenitally, or from a brain injury) have difficulty humming melodies but can be spared for singing familiar songs with familiar lyrics [26]. Here we report a detailed study of a musician with a low-grade tumor in the right temporal lobe. Functional MRI was used pre-operatively to localize music processing to the right STG, and the patient subsequently underwent awake intraoperative mapping using direct electrical stimulation during a melody repetition task. Stimulation of the right STG induced "music arrest" and errors in pitch but did not affect language processing. These findings provide causal evidence for the functional segregation of music and language processing in the human brain and confirm a specific role of the right STG in melody processing. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / etiology
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / complications
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult