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Keeping an eye on the conductor: Neural correlates of naïve and musicians for action synchronization with conductor

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Maess,  Burkhard
Methods and Development Unit MEG and EEG: Signal Analysis and Modelling, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friederici,  Angela D.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Ono, K., Nakamura, A., Maess, B., & Friederici, A. D. (2011). Keeping an eye on the conductor: Neural correlates of naïve and musicians for action synchronization with conductor. Neuroscience Research, 71(Suppl.), e386-e386.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-AD3D-6
Abstract
Musicians who play in an orchestra need to follow the gestures of conductor to achieve an optimal performance. However, up to now it remains unclear how precisely musicians synchronize with conductor and which brain mechanisms are needed for it. To investigate these issues, we conducted behavioral and fMRI experiments with naïve subjects without special musical education and musicians who have been playing music with conductor regularly. In the behavioral experiment, we prepared two different stimuli, displaying silent movies of either a gesturing conductor or a swinging metronome. All stimuli presented four bars having four beats each (16 beats in total). Half of the movies presented the beats in a constant tempo. In the other half, however, the tempo was changed within the third bar like ritardando or accelerando. Subjects were asked to follow each beat by finger tapping. We estimated the temporal asynchrony between the timing of tap and beat. Interestingly, there was no difference between musicians and nonmusicians for their temporal asynchronies with metronome. However, while tapping with conductor, musicians showed more precise tapping than nonmusicians. We used similar tapping task with movies of conductor and metronome in the fMRI experiment. Results of fMRI showed a larger activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (BA10) in musicians than nonmusicians. Furthermore, this activation in musicians was positively correlated with the length of hours/week to play music with conductor. On the other hand, tapping with metronome did not show any effect of musical experience both in tapping accuracy and in brain activation. Results from these experiments demonstrate that musicians are better able to take the beat from gestures of conductor than nonmusicians do. Furthermore, it appears to depend on the ability of the musicians to interpret the intention of conductor, but not being a merely generalized ability to tap a rhythm.