Music and language side by side in the brain: a PET study of the generation of melodies and sentences.

  • Brown S
  • Martinez M
  • Parsons L
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Parallel generational tasks for music and language were compared using
positron emission tomography. Amateur musicians vocally improvised
melodic or linguistic phrases in response to unfamiliar, auditorily
presented melodies or phrases. Core areas for generating melodic
phrases appeared to be in left Brodmann area (BA) 45, right BA 44,
bilateral temporal planum polare, lateral BA 6, and pre-SMA. Core
areas for generating sentences seemed to be in bilateral posterior
superior and middle temporal cortex (BA 22, 21), left BA 39, bilateral
superior frontal (BA 8, 9), left inferior frontal (BA 44, 45), anterior
cingulate, and pre-SMA. Direct comparisons of the two tasks revealed
activations in nearly identical functional brain areas, including
the primary motor cortex, supplementary motor area, Broca's area,
anterior insula, primary and secondary auditory cortices, temporal
pole, basal ganglia, ventral thalamus, and posterior cerebellum.
Most of the differences between melodic and sentential generation
were seen in lateralization tendencies, with the language task favouring
the left hemisphere. However, many of the activations for each modality
were bilateral, and so there was significant overlap. While clarification
of this overlapping activity awaits higher-resolution measurements
and interventional assessments, plausible accounts for it include
component sharing, interleaved representations, and adaptive coding.
With these and related findings, we outline a comparative model of
shared, parallel, and distinctive features of the neural systems
supporting music and language. The model assumes that music and language
show parallel combinatoric generativity for complex sound structures
(phonology) but distinctly different informational content (semantics).

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adult; Brain Mapping; Brain
  • physiology; Female; Humans; Language; Male; Middl

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  • Steven Brown

  • Michael J Martinez

  • Lawrence M Parsons

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