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Musical Imagery Involves the Wernicke's Area in Bilateral and Anti-Correlated Network Interactions in Musicians

By Yizhen Zhang, Gang Chen, Haiguang Wen, Kun-Han Lu, Zhongming Liu

Posted 05 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/142950 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-17178-4)

Musical imagery is a human experience of imagining music without actually hearing it. The neural basis of such a mental ability is unclear, especially for musicians capable of accurate and vivid musical imagery due to their musical training. Here, we visualized an 8-min symphony as a silent movie, and used it as real-time cues for musicians to continuously imagine the music for multiple synchronized sessions during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The activations and networks evoked by musical imagery were compared with those when the subjects directly listened to the same music. The musical imagery and perception shared similar responses at bilateral secondary auditory areas and Wernicke's area for encoding the musical feature. But the Wernicke's area was involved in highly distinct network interactions during musical imagery vs. perception. The former involved positive correlations with a subset of the auditory network and the attention network, but negative correlations with the default mode network; the latter was confined to the intrinsic auditory network in the resting state. Our results highlight the important role of the Wernicke's area in forming vivid musical imagery through bilateral and anti-correlated network interactions, challenging the conventional view of segregated and lateralized processing of music vs. language.

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