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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Music and language are uniquely human forms of communication. What neural structures facilitate these abilities? This chapter conducts a review of music and language processing that follows these acoustic signals as they ascend the auditory pathway from the brainstem to auditory cortex and on to more specialized cortical regions. Acoustic, neural, and cognitive mechanisms are identified where processing demands from both domains might overlap, with an eye to examples of experience-dependent cortical plasticity, which are taken as strong evidence for common neural substrates. Following an introduction describing how understanding musical processing informs linguistic or auditory processing more generally, findings regarding the major components (and parallels) of music and language research are reviewed: pitch perception, syntax and harmonic structural processing, semantics, timbre and speaker identification, attending in auditory scenes, and rhythm. Overall, the strongest evidence that currently exists for neural overlap (and cross-domain, experience-dependent plasticity) is in the brainstem, followed by auditory cortex, with evidence and the potential for overlap becoming less apparent as the mechanisms involved in music and speech perception become more specialized and distinct at higher levels of processing.

Keywords: music, plasticity, pitch, harmonic structure, timbre, rhythm, acoustics, auditory

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