Nov 13, 2012

Melodic pitch expectation interacts with neural responses to syntactic but not semantic violations

Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior
Elisa CarrusJoydeep Bhattacharya

Abstract

Current behavioural and electrophysiological evidence suggests that music and language syntactic processing depends on at least partly shared neural resources. Existing studies using a simultaneous presentation paradigm are limited to the effects of violations of harmonic structure in Western tonal music on processing of single syntactic or semantic violations. Because melody is a universal property of music as it is emphasized also by non-western musical traditions, it is fundamental to investigate interactions between melodic expectation and language processing. The present study investigates the effect of melodically unexpected notes on neural responses elicited by linguistic violations. Sentences with or without a violation in the last word were presented on screen simultaneously with melodies whose last note had a high- or low-probability, as estimated by a computational model of melodic expectation. Violations in language could be syntactic, semantic or combined. The electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded while participants occasionally responded to language stimuli. Confirming previous studies, low-probability notes elicited an enhanced N1 compared to high-probability notes. Further, syntactic violations elicited a left...Continue Reading

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