You are here: Home Publications Music and language syntax interact in Broca’s Area: An fMRI study

Music and language syntax interact in Broca’s Area: An fMRI study

Kunert, R., Willems, R. M., Casasanto, D., Patel, A. D., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Music and language syntax interact in Broca’s Area: An fMRI study. PLoS One, 10(11): e0141069. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141069.
Instrumental music and language are both syntactic systems, employing complex, hierarchically-structured sequences built using implicit structural norms. This organization allows listeners to understand the role of individual words or tones in the context of an unfolding sentence or melody. Previous studies suggest that the brain mechanisms of syntactic processing may be partly shared between music and language. However, functional neuroimaging evidence for anatomical overlap of brain activity involved in linguistic and musical syntactic processing has been lacking. In the present study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in conjunction with an interference paradigm based on sung sentences. We show that the processing demands of musical syntax (harmony) and language syntax interact in Broca’s area in the left inferior frontal gyrus (without leading to music and language main effects). A language main effect in Broca’s area only emerged in the complex music harmony condition, suggesting that (with our stimuli and tasks) a language effect only becomes visible under conditions of increased demands on shared neural resources. In contrast to previous studies, our design allows us to rule out that the observed neural interaction is due to: (1) general attention mechanisms, as a psychoacoustic auditory anomaly behaved unlike the harmonic manipulation, (2) error processing, as the language and the music stimuli contained no structural errors. The current results thus suggest that two different cognitive domains—music and language—might draw on the same high level syntactic integration resources in Broca’s area.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands


Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213
E-mail:   


Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn