ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints201906.0122.v1
Subject: Behavioral Sciences, Cognitive & Experimental Psychology Keywords: music; language; syntax; attention; comprehension; electroencephalography; event-related potentials
Online: 13 June 2019 (13:13:57 CEST)
Music and language are hypothesized to share neural resources, particularly at the level of syntax processing. Recent reports suggest that attention modulates this sharing of neural resources, but the time-course of the effects of attention, and the degree to which attention operates similarly on music and language, are yet unclear. In this EEG study we manipulate the syntactic structure of simultaneously presented musical chord progressions and garden-path sentences in a modified rapid serial visual presentation paradigm, while varying top-down attentional demands to the two modalities. The Early Right Anterior Negativity (ERAN) was observed in response to both attended and unattended musical syntax violations. In contrast, an N400 was only observed in response to attended linguistic syntax violations, and a P3 only in response to attended musical syntax violations. Results show that top-down allocation of attention indeed affects the processing of syntax in both music and language, with different neural resources acting upon the two modalities particularly at later stages of cognitive processing. However, the processing of musical syntax at an earlier stage of the perceptual-cognitive pathway, as indexed by the ERAN, is partially automatic, and is strongly indicative of separate neural resources for music and language.