Towards a neural basis of processing musical semantics

  • Koelsch S
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Processing of meaning is critical for language perception, and therefore the majority of research on meaning processing has focused on the semantic, lexical, conceptual, and propositional processing of language. However, music is another a means of communication, and meaning also emerges from the interpretation of musical information. This article provides a framework for the investigation of the processing of musical meaning, and reviews neuroscience studies investigating this issue. These studies reveal two neural correlates of meaning processing, the N400 and the N5 (which are both components of the event-related electric brain potential). Here I argue that the N400 can be elicited by musical stimuli due to the processing of extra-musical meaning, whereas the N5 can be elicited due to the processing of intra-musical meaning. Notably, whereas the N400 can be elicited by both linguistic and musical stimuli, the N5 has so far only been observed for the processing of meaning in music. Thus, knowledge about both the N400 and the N5 can advance our understanding of how the human brain processes meaning information. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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  • Stefan Koelsch

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