Superior pre-attentive auditory processing in musicians

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Abstract

THE present study focuses on influences of long-term experience on auditory processing, providing the first evidence for pre-attentively superior auditory processing in musicians. This was revealed by the brain's automatic change-detection response, which is reflected electrically as the mismatch negativity (MMN) and generated by the operation of sensoric (echoic) memory, the earliest cognitive memory system. Major chords and single tones were presented to both professional violinists and non-musicians under ignore and attend conditions. Slightly impure chords, presented among perfect major chords elicited a distinct MMN in professional musicians, but not in non-musicians. This demonstrates that compared to non-musicians, musicians are superior in pre-attentively extracting more information out of musically relevant stimuli. Since effects of long-term experience on pre-attentive auditory processing have so far been reported for language-specific phonemes only, results indicate that sensory memory mechanisms can be modulated by training on a more general level.

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