Functional anatomy of language and music perception: Temporal and structural factors investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging

Corianne Rogalsky, Feng Rong, Kourosh Saberi, Gregory Hickok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Language and music exhibit similar acoustic and structural properties, and both appear to be uniquely human. Several recent studies suggest that speech and music perception recruit shared computational systems, and acommonsubstrate in Broca's area for hierarchical processing has recently been proposed. However, this claim has not been tested by directly comparing the spatial distribution of activations to speech and music processing within subjects. In the present study, participants listened to sentences, scrambled sentences, and novel melodies. As expected, large swaths of activation for both sentences and melodies were found bilaterally in the superior temporal lobe, overlapping in portions of auditory cortex. However, substantial nonoverlap was also found: sentences elicited more ventrolateral activation, whereas the melodies elicited a more dorsomedial pattern, extending into the parietal lobe. Multivariate pattern classification analyses indicate that even within the regions of blood oxygenation level-dependent response overlap, speech and music elicit distinguishable patterns of activation. Regions involved in processing hierarchical aspects of sentence perception were identified by contrasting sentences with scrambled sentences, revealing a bilateral temporal lobe network. Music perception showed no overlap whatsoever with this network. Broca's area was not robustly activated by any stimulus type. Overall, these findings suggest that basic hierarchical processing for music and speech recruits distinct cortical networks, neither of which involves Broca's area. We suggest that previous claims are based on data from tasks that tap higher-order cognitive processes, such as working memory and/or cognitive control, which can operate in both speech and music domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3843-3852
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 9 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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