Temporal hierarchies in the predictive processing of melody - From pure tones to songs

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2023 Feb;145:105007. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.105007. Epub 2022 Dec 16.


Listening to musical melodies is a complex task that engages perceptual and memoryrelated processes. The processes underlying melody cognition happen simultaneously on different timescales, ranging from milliseconds to minutes. Although attempts have been made, research on melody perception is yet to produce a unified framework of how melody processing is achieved in the brain. This may in part be due to the difficulty of integrating concepts such as perception, attention and memory, which pertain to different temporal scales. Recent theories on brain processing, which hold prediction as a fundamental principle, offer potential solutions to this problem and may provide a unifying framework for explaining the neural processes that enable melody perception on multiple temporal levels. In this article, we review empirical evidence for predictive coding on the levels of pitch formation, basic pitch-related auditory patterns,more complex regularity processing extracted from basic patterns and long-term expectations related to musical syntax. We also identify areas that would benefit from further inquiry and suggest future directions in research on musical melody perception.

Keywords: Auditory perception; Melody perception; Pitch perception; Predictive coding.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception
  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception