Processing of hierarchical syntactic structure in music

Koelsch, Stefan and Rohrmeier, Martin and Torrecuso, Renzo and Jentschke, Sebastian (2013) Processing of hierarchical syntactic structure in music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (38). pp. 15443-15448. ISSN 0027-8424

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Abstract

Hierarchical structure with nested nonlocal dependencies is a key feature of human language and can be identified theoretically in most pieces of tonal music. However, previous studies have argued against the perception of such structures in music. Here, we show processing of nonlocal dependencies in music. We presented chorales by J. S. Bach and modified versions in which the hierarchical structure was rendered irregular whereas the local structure was kept intact. Brain electric responses differed between regular and irregular hierarchical structures, in both musicians and nonmusicians. This finding indicates that, when listening to music, humans apply cognitive processes that are capable of dealing with long-distance dependencies resulting from hierarchically organized syntactic structures. Our results reveal that a brain mechanism fundamental for syntactic processing is engaged during the perception of music, indicating that processing of hierarchical structure with nested nonlocal dependencies is not just a key component of human language, but a multidomain capacity of human cognition.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1000
Subjects:
ID Code:
73828
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
18 Jun 2015 05:46
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
08 Jul 2020 04:37