Same or different pitch? Effects of musical expertise, pitch difference, and auditory task on the pitch discrimination ability of musicians and non-musicians.Exp Brain Res. 2020 Jan; 238(1):247-258.EB
Musical expertise promotes both the perception and the processing of music. The aim of the present study was to analyze if musicians compared to non-musicians already have auditory processing advantages at the neural level. 50 musicians and 50 non-musicians worked on a task to determine the individual auditory difference threshold (individual JND threshold). A passive oddball paradigm followed while the EEG activity was recorded. Frequent standard sounds (528 hertz [Hz]) and rare deviant sounds (individual JND threshold, 535 Hz, and 558 Hz) were presented in the oddball paradigm. The mismatch negativity (MMN) and the P3a were used as indicators of auditory discrimination skills for frequency differences. Musicians had significantly smaller individual JND thresholds than non-musicians, but musicians were not faster than non-musicians. Musicians and non-musicians showed both the MMN and the P3a at the 535 Hz and 558 Hz condition. In the individual JND threshold condition, non-musicians, whose individual JND threshold was at 539.8 Hz (and therefore even above the deviant sound of 535 Hz), predictably showed the MMN and the P3a. Musicians, whose individual JND threshold was at 531.1 Hz (and thus close to the standard sound of 528 Hz), showed no MMN and P3a-although they were behaviorally able to differentiate frequencies individually within their JND threshold range. This may indicate a key role of attention in triggering the MMN during the detection of frequency differences in the individual JND threshold range (see Tervaniemi et al. in Exp Brain 161:1-10, 2005).