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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 2015, Article ID 638202, 11 pages
Research Article

Musical Sequence Learning and EEG Correlates of Audiomotor Processing

1Department of Cognitive Science, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
2VA Northern California Health Care System, Martinez, CA 94553, USA
3Department of Neuroscience, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

Received 24 April 2015; Revised 8 July 2015; Accepted 14 July 2015

Academic Editor: Shinichi Furuya

Copyright © 2015 Matt D. Schalles and Jaime A. Pineda. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Our motor and auditory systems are functionally connected during musical performance, and functional imaging suggests that the association is strong enough that passive music listening can engage the motor system. As predictive coding constrains movement sequence selections, could the motor system contribute to sequential processing of musical passages? If this is the case, then we hypothesized that the motor system should respond preferentially to passages of music that contain similar sequential information, even if other aspects of music, such as the absolute pitch, have been altered. We trained piano naive subjects with a learn-to play-by-ear paradigm, to play a simple melodic sequence over five days. After training, we recorded EEG of subjects listening to the song they learned to play, a transposed version of that song, and a control song with different notes and sequence from the learned song. Beta band power over sensorimotor scalp showed increased suppression for the learned song, a moderate level of suppression for the transposed song, and no suppression for the control song. As beta power is associated with attention and motor processing, we interpret this as support of the motor system’s activity during covert perception of music one can play and similar musical sequences.