Electrical Brain Responses Reveal Sequential Constraints on Planning during Music Performance

Brain Sci. 2019 Jan 28;9(2):25. doi: 10.3390/brainsci9020025.


Elements in speech and music unfold sequentially over time. To produce sentences and melodies quickly and accurately, individuals must plan upcoming sequence events, as well as monitor outcomes via auditory feedback. We investigated the neural correlates of sequential planning and monitoring processes by manipulating auditory feedback during music performance. Pianists performed isochronous melodies from memory at an initially cued rate while their electroencephalogram was recorded. Pitch feedback was occasionally altered to match either an immediately upcoming Near-Future pitch (next sequence event) or a more distant Far-Future pitch (two events ahead of the current event). Near-Future, but not Far-Future altered feedback perturbed the timing of pianists' performances, suggesting greater interference of Near-Future sequential events with current planning processes. Near-Future feedback triggered a greater reduction in auditory sensory suppression (enhanced response) than Far-Future feedback, reflected in the P2 component elicited by the pitch event following the unexpected pitch change. Greater timing perturbations were associated with enhanced cortical sensory processing of the pitch event following the Near-Future altered feedback. Both types of feedback alterations elicited feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P3a potentials and amplified spectral power in the theta frequency range. These findings suggest similar constraints on producers' sequential planning to those reported in speech production.

Keywords: EEG; FRN; N1; altered auditory feedback; feedback monitoring; music cognition; music performance; sensorimotor learning; sequence planning; sequence production.