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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

February 2006, Vol. 18, No. 2, Pages 199-211
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2006.18.2.199)
© 2006 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Musician Children Detect Pitch Violations in Both Music and Language Better than Nonmusician Children: Behavioral and Electrophysiological Approaches
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The idea that extensive musical training can influence processing in cognitive domains other than music has received considerable attention from the educational system and the media. Here we analyzed behavioral data and recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) from 8-year-old children to test the hypothesis that musical training facilitates pitch processing not only in music but also in language. We used a parametric manipulation of pitch so that the final notes or words of musical phrases or sentences were congruous, weakly incongruous, or strongly incongruous. Musician children outperformed nonmusician children in the detection of the weak incongruity in both music and language. Moreover, the greatest differences in the ERPs of musician and nonmusician children were also found for the weak incongruity: whereas for musician children, early negative components developed in music and late positive components in language, no such components were found for nonmusician children. Finally, comparison of these results with previous ones from adults suggests that some aspects of pitch processing are in effect earlier in music than in language. Thus, the present results reveal positive transfer effects between cognitive domains and shed light on the time course and neural basis of the development of prosodic and melodic processing.