Musical Sophistication and Speech Auditory-Motor Coupling: Easy Tests for Quick Answers

Johanna M. Rimmele, Pius Kern, Christina Lubinus, Klaus Frieler, David Poeppel, M. Florencia Assaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Musical training enhances auditory-motor cortex coupling, which in turn facilitates music and speech perception. How tightly the temporal processing of music and speech are intertwined is a topic of current research. We investigated the relationship between musical sophistication (Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication index, Gold-MSI) and spontaneous speech-to-speech synchronization behavior as an indirect measure of speech auditory-motor cortex coupling strength. In a group of participants (n = 196), we tested whether the outcome of the spontaneous speech-to-speech synchronization test (SSS-test) can be inferred from self-reported musical sophistication. Participants were classified as high (HIGHs) or low (LOWs) synchronizers according to the SSS-test. HIGHs scored higher than LOWs on all Gold-MSI subscales (General Score, Active Engagement, Musical Perception, Musical Training, Singing Skills), but the Emotional Attachment scale. More specifically, compared to a previously reported German-speaking sample, HIGHs overall scored higher and LOWs lower. Compared to an estimated distribution of the English-speaking general population, our sample overall scored lower, with the scores of LOWs significantly differing from the normal distribution, with scores in the ∼30th percentile. While HIGHs more often reported musical training compared to LOWs, the distribution of training instruments did not vary across groups. Importantly, even after the highly correlated subscores of the Gold-MSI were decorrelated, particularly the subscales Musical Perception and Musical Training allowed to infer the speech-to-speech synchronization behavior. The differential effects of musical perception and training were observed, with training predicting audio-motor synchronization in both groups, but perception only in the HIGHs. Our findings suggest that speech auditory-motor cortex coupling strength can be inferred from training and perceptual aspects of musical sophistication, suggesting shared mechanisms involved in speech and music perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number764342
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jan 4 2022


  • auditory-motor coupling
  • musical sophistication
  • musical training
  • speech
  • synchronization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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