An oscillator model better predicts cortical entrainment to music

Keith B. Doelling, M. Florencia Assaneo, Dana Bevilacqua, Bijan Pesaran, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A body of research demonstrates convincingly a role for synchronization of auditory cortex to rhythmic structure in sounds including speech and music. Some studies hypothesize that an oscillator in auditory cortex could underlie important temporal processes such as segmentation and prediction. An important critique of these findings raises the plausible concern that what is measured is perhaps not an oscillator but is instead a sequence of evoked responses. The two distinct mechanisms could look very similar in the case of rhythmic input, but an oscillator might better provide the computational roles mentioned above (i.e., segmentation and prediction). We advance an approach to adjudicate between the two models: analyzing the phase lag between stimulus and neural signal across different stimulation rates. We ran numerical simulations of evoked and oscillatory computational models, showing that in the evoked case,phase lag is heavily rate-dependent, while the oscillatory model displays marked phase concentration across stimulation rates. Next, we compared these model predictions with magnetoencephalography data recorded while participants listened to music of varying note rates. Our results show that the phase concentration of the experimental data is more in line with the oscillatory model than with the evoked model. This finding supports an auditory cortical signal that (i) contains components of both bottom-up evoked responses and internal oscillatory synchronization whose strengths are weighted by their appropriateness for particular stimulus types and (ii) cannot be explained by evoked responses alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10113-10121
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 14 2019


  • Computational models
  • Evoked response
  • MEG
  • Music
  • Oscillator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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