Contribution of different cortical areas in the temporal lobes to music processing

Brain. 1998 Oct;121 ( Pt 10):1853-67. doi: 10.1093/brain/121.10.1853.


Music processing ability was studied in 65 right-handed patients who had undergone unilateral temporal cortectomy for the relief of intractable epilepsy, and 24 matched normal controls. The ability to recognize changes in note intervals and to distinguish between different rhythms and metres was tested by presentation of sequences of simple musical phrases with variations in either pitch or temporal dimensions. The responses (right or wrong) enabled us to determine in which component of the music processing mechanism the patients had deficits and hence, knowing the positions of the surgical lesions, to identify their separate cerebral locations. The results showed that a right temporal cortectomy impaired the use of both contour and interval information in the discrimination of melodies and a left temporal cortectomy impaired only the use of interval information. Moreover, they underlined the importance of the superior temporal gyrus in melody processing. The excision of a part of the auditory areas (posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus) was found to be most detrimental for pitch and temporal variation processing. In the temporal dimension, we observed a dissociation between metre and rhythm and the critical involvement of the anterior part of the superior temporal gyrus in metric processing. This study highlights the relevance of dissociating musical abilities into their most significant cognitive components in order to identify their separate cerebral locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy / surgery
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Postoperative Period
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / surgery
  • Time Perception / physiology