The musical brain: brain waves reveal the neurophysiological basis of musicality in human subjects

Neurosci Lett. 1997 Apr 18;226(1):1-4. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3940(97)00217-6.


To reveal neurophysiological prerequisites of musicality, auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from musical and non-musical subjects, musicality being here defined as the ability to temporally structure auditory information. Instructed to read a book and to ignore sounds, subjects were presented with a repetitive sound pattern with occasional changes in its temporal structure. The mismatch negativity (MMN) component of ERPs, indexing the cortical preattentive detection of change in these stimulus patterns, was larger in amplitude in musical than non-musical subjects. This amplitude enhancement, indicating more accurate sensory memory function in musical subjects, suggests that even the cognitive component of musicality, traditionally regarded as depending on attention-related brain processes, in fact, is based on neural mechanisms present already at the preattentive level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*