Language and music share a number of characteristics. Crucially, both domains depend on both rules and memorized representations. Double dissociations between the neurocognition of rule-governed and memory-based knowledge have been found in language but not music. Here, the neural bases of both of these aspects of music were examined with an event-related potential (ERP) study of note violations in melodies. Rule-only violations consisted of out-of-key deviant notes that violated tonal harmony rules in novel (unfamiliar) melodies. Memory-only violations consisted of in-key deviant notes in familiar well-known melodies; these notes followed musical rules but deviated from the actual melodies. Finally, out-of-key notes in familiar well-known melodies constituted violations of both rules and memory. All three conditions were presented, within-subjects, to healthy young adults, half musicians and half non-musicians. The results revealed a double dissociation, independent of musical training, between rules and memory: both rule violation conditions, but not the memory-only violations, elicited an early, somewhat right-lateralized anterior-central negativity (ERAN), consistent with previous studies of rule violations in music, and analogous to the early left-lateralized anterior negativities elicited by rule violations in language. In contrast, both memory violation conditions, but not the rule-only violation, elicited a posterior negativity that might be characterized as an N400, an ERP component that depends, at least in part, on the processing of representations stored in long-term memory, both in language and in other domains. The results suggest that the neurocognitive rule/memory dissociation extends from language to music, further strengthening the similarities between the two domains.
Neuroimage. 2007 Nov 1;38(2):331-45. Miranda RA, Ullman MT. Brain and Language Laboratory, Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University, New Research Building, 3970 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA; Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Georgetown University, USA.