Apr 3, 2010

Words and melody are intertwined in perception of sung words: EEG and behavioral evidence

PloS One
Reyna GordonMireille Besson


Language and music, two of the most unique human cognitive abilities, are combined in song, rendering it an ecological model for comparing speech and music cognition. The present study was designed to determine whether words and melodies in song are processed interactively or independently, and to examine the influence of attention on the processing of words and melodies in song. Event-Related brain Potentials (ERPs) and behavioral data were recorded while non-musicians listened to pairs of sung words (prime and target) presented in four experimental conditions: same word, same melody; same word, different melody; different word, same melody; different word, different melody. Participants were asked to attend to either the words or the melody, and to perform a same/different task. In both attentional tasks, different word targets elicited an N400 component, as predicted based on previous results. Most interestingly, different melodies (sung with the same word) elicited an N400 component followed by a late positive component. Finally, ERP and behavioral data converged in showing interactions between the linguistic and melodic dimensions of sung words. The finding that the N400 effect, a well-established marker of semantic proces...Continue Reading

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