Cortical entrainment to music and its modulation by expertise

Keith B. Doelling, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Recent studies establish that cortical oscillations track naturalistic speech in a remarkably faithful way. Here, we test whether such neural activity, particularly low-frequency (<8 Hz; delta-theta) oscillations, similarly entrain to music and whether experience modifies such a cortical phenomenon. Music of varying tempi was used to test entrainment at different rates. In three magnetoencephalography experiments, we recorded from nonmusicians, as well as musicians with varying years of experience. Recordings from nonmusicians demonstrate cortical entrainment that tracks musical stimuli over a typical range of tempi, but not at tempi below 1 note per second. Importantly, the observed entrainment correlates with performance on a concurrent pitch-related behavioral task. In contrast, the data from musicians show that entrainment is enhanced by years of musical training, at all presented tempi. This suggests a bidirectional relationship between behavior and cortical entrainment, a phenomenon that has not previously been reported. Additional analyses focus on responses in the beta range (∼15-30 Hz)-often linked to delta activity in the context of temporal predictions. Our findings provide evidence that the role of beta in temporal predictions scales to the complex hierarchical rhythms in natural music and enhances processing of musical content. This study builds on important findings on brainstem plasticity and represents a compelling demonstration that cortical neural entrainment is tightly coupled to both musical training and task performance, further supporting a role for cortical oscillatory activity in music perception and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E6233-E6242
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number45
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 10 2015

Keywords

  • Beta
  • Entrainment
  • MEG
  • Musical expertise
  • Theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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