Electric brain responses to inappropriate harmonies during listening to expressive music
Stefan Koelsch1& Juul Mulder2
1Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
2University of Groningen, Netherlands
Clinical Neurophysiology (in press)
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Objective: Recent studies with event-related brain potentials (ERPs) investigating music processing found (early) negativities with right-hemispheric predominance as a response to inappropriate harmonies within sequences of chords. The stimuli used in those studies were fairly artificial in order to control the experimental factors (e.g., variations in tempo and loudness were eliminated). This raises the question of whether these ERPs can also be elicited during listening to more naturalistic stimuli.
Method: Excerpts from classical piano sonatas were taken from commercial CDs and presented to the participants while recording the continuous electroencephalogram (EEG). Expected chords and unexpected (transposed) chords were presented at the end of chord-sequences.
Results: Unexpected chords elicited a negativity which was maximal around 250 ms, visible over both hemispheres, and preponderant over right temporal leads.
Conclusions: The found negativity is strongly reminiscent to both ERAN and RATN, suggesting that cognitive processes underlying these ERP components are not only elicited with fairly artificial experimental stimuli but also when listening to expressive music.
Figure Legend: Potential maps of the effects elicited by the transposed chords (difference ERPs: expected subtracted from transposed chords, view from top, nose is upwards). In the range around 200-320 ms, the early negativity had a maximum over centro-temporal leads of each hemisphere (left). The negativity was followed by a positivity which had a frontal distribution around 350-450 ms (middle-left), and a late positivity from around 500 ms on which was parietally maximal (middle-right). The late negativity was frontally maximal (right).