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High-order areas and auditory cortex both represent the high-level event structure of music

By Jamal A. Williams, Elizabeth H. Margulis, Samuel A. Nastase, Janice Chen, Uri Hasson, Kenneth A. Norman, Christopher A Baldassano

Posted 26 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.26.428291

Recent fMRI studies of event segmentation have found that default mode regions represent high-level event structure during movie watching. In these regions, neural patterns are relatively stable during events and shift at event boundaries. Music, like narratives, contains hierarchical event structure (e.g., sections are composed of phrases). Here, we tested the hypothesis that brain activity patterns in default mode regions reflect the high-level event structure of music. We used fMRI to record brain activity from 25 participants (male and female) as they listened to a continuous playlist of 16 musical excerpts, and additionally collected annotations for these excerpts by asking a separate group of participants to mark when meaningful changes occurred in each one. We then identified temporal boundaries between stable patterns of brain activity using a hidden Markov model and compared the location of the model boundaries to the location of the human annotations. We identified multiple brain regions with significant matches to the observer-identified boundaries, including auditory cortex, mPFC, parietal cortex, and angular gyrus. From these results, we conclude that both higher-order and sensory areas contain information relating to the high-level event structure of music. Moreover, the higher-order areas in this study overlap with areas found in previous studies of event perception in movies and audio narratives, including regions in the default mode network.

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