Time course of the influence of musical expertise on the processing of vocal and musical sounds.Neuroscience. 2015 Apr 02; 290:175-84.N
Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have suggested that different cerebral regions preferentially process human voice and music. Yet, little is known on the temporal course of the brain processes that decode the category of sounds and how the expertise in one sound category can impact these processes. To address this question, we recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) of 15 musicians and 18 non-musicians while they were listening to short musical excerpts (piano and violin) and vocal stimuli (speech and non-linguistic vocalizations). The task of the participants was to detect noise targets embedded within the stream of sounds. Event-related potentials revealed an early differentiation of sound category, within the first 100 ms after the onset of the sound, with mostly increased responses to musical sounds. Importantly, this effect was modulated by the musical background of participants, as musicians were more responsive to music sounds than non-musicians, consistent with the notion that musical training increases sensitivity to music. In late temporal windows, brain responses were enhanced in response to vocal stimuli, but musicians were still more responsive to music. These results shed new light on the temporal course of neural dynamics of auditory processing and reveal how it is impacted by the stimulus category and the expertise of participants.