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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Music perception and cognition: development, neural basis, and rehabilitative use of music

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Abstract Music is a highly versatile form of art and communication that has been an essential part of human society since its early days. Neuroimaging studies indicate that music is a powerful stimulus also for the human brain, engaging not just the auditory cortex but also a vast, bilateral network of temporal, frontal, parietal, cerebellar, and limbic brain areas that govern auditory perception, syntactic and semantic processing, attention and memory, emotion and mood control, and motor skills. Studies of amusia, a severe form of musical impairment, highlight the right temporal and frontal cortices as the core neural substrates for adequate perception and production of music. Many of the basic auditory and musical skills, such as pitch and timbre perception, start developing already in utero, and babies are born with a natural preference for music and singing. Music has many important roles and functions throughout life, ranging from emotional self‐regulation, mood enhancement, and identity formation to promoting the development of verbal, motor, cognitive, and social skills and maintaining their healthy functioning in old age. Music is also used clinically as a part of treatment in many illnesses, which involve affective, attention, memory, communication, or motor deficits. Although more research is still needed, current evidence suggests that music‐based rehabilitation can be effective in many developmental, psychiatric, and neurological disorders, such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, and stroke, as well as in many chronic somatic illnesses that cause pain and anxiety. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:441–451. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1237 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Brain Function and Dysfunction Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics Neuroscience > Cognition

Schematic illustration of key brain areas associated with music processing‐based neuroimaging studies of healthy subjects. Note that although the image displays the lateral and medial parts of the right hemisphere, many musical subfunctions are actually largely bilateral (with the exception of pitch and melody processing, which is more lateralized to the right hemisphere).

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Critical brain areas where damage typically leads to an amusic deficit in spectral processing (perception of pitch intervals or patterns, tonal structure, and timbre), temporal processing (perception of time intervals and rhythm), musical memory (recognition of familiar or novel musical material), or emotional response to music. The size of each circle is scaled to the proportion of studies of the function implicating that region. (Reprinted with permission from Ref Copyright 2006 Oxford University Press)

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