Cortical activity during naturalistic music listening reflects short-range predictions based on long-term experience
Expectations shape our experience of music. However, the internal model upon which listeners form melodic expectations is still debated. Do expectations stem from Gestalt-like principles or statistical learning? If the latter, does long-term experience play an important role, or are short-term regularities sufficient? And finally, what length of context informs contextual expectations? To answer these questions, we presented human listeners with diverse naturalistic compositions from Western classical music, while recording neural activity using MEG. We quantified note-level melodic surprise and uncertainty using various computational models of music, including a state-of-the-art transformer neural network. A time-resolved regression analysis revealed that neural activity over fronto-temporal sensors tracked melodic surprise particularly around 200 ms and 300–500 ms after note onset. This neural surprise response was dissociated from sensory-acoustic and adaptation effects. Neural surprise was best predicted by computational models that incorporated long-term statistical learning – rather than by simple, Gestalt-like principles. Yet, intriguingly, the surprise reflected primarily short-range musical contexts of less than ten notes. We present a full replication of our novel MEG results in an openly available EEG dataset. Together, these results elucidate the internal model that shapes melodic predictions during naturalistic music listening.
All data have been deposited into the Donders Repository under CC-BY-4.0 license, under identifier https://doi.org/10.34973/5qxw-nn97 . (NOTE: The persistent doi is not yet active during peer review! Data are available to reviewers with a special reviewer access link provided in the manuscript.)
Tracking predictions in naturalistic music listening using MEG and computational models of musicDonders Repository, doi:10.34973/5qxw-nn97.
Cortical encoding of melodic expectations in human temporal cortexDryad Digital Repository, doi:10.5061/dryad.g1jwstqmh.
Article and author information
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (016.Veni.198.065)
- Eelke Spaak
European Research Council (101000942)
- Floris P de Lange
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: The study was approved under the general ethical approval for the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (Imaging Human Cognition, CMO2014/288) by the local ethics committee (CMO Arnhem-Nijmegen, Radboud University Medical Centre). Participants provided written informed consent before the experiment and received monetary compensation.
- Jonas Obleser, University of Lübeck, Germany
- Received: June 9, 2022
- Preprint posted: June 10, 2022 (view preprint)
- Accepted: December 22, 2022
- Accepted Manuscript published: December 23, 2022 (version 1)
- Version of Record published: January 12, 2023 (version 2)
© 2022, Kern et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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