[POSTPONED] Making sense of complex music: Insights from neuroimaging

Professor & PI of Learning, Elvira Brattico, from Aarhus University and University of Bari Aldo Moro, will speak at RITMO's Seminar Series

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According to current theories, auditory perception and memory involve the constant prediction of future sound events by the brain, based on the continuous extraction of feature regularities from the environment. The hierarchical mechanisms in the brain for predictive processes in perception and memory are typically studied in relation to acoustic features inserted in simple, highly certain contexts, which elicit reliable prediction error signals, e.g., the N100 or the mismatch negativity (MMN). In music, though, the alternation between certainty and surprise is skillfully exploited by composers for aesthetic goals, up to compositional styles, such as contemporary classical music, where uncertainty prevails and making sense of sounds becomes a cognitive puzzle. In our magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG) studies, we introduced stimulation paradigms and analysis approaches allowing us to identify prediction-error responses even from highly uncertain (atonal) music. Moreover, source reconstruction of brain signal revealed the emergence of fronto-hippocampal networks during the formation of auditory memories for more predictable vs. less predictable patterns. Our findings contribute to understanding the general brain mechanisms that enable us to predict even highly uncertain sound environments and to possibly make sense of even atonal music.


Elvira Brattico is full professor of Neuroscience, Music and Aesthetics at Aarhus University, Denmark, since 2015 and of Experimental Psychology (part-time) at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy since 2019. In 2015, she co-founded the Center for Music in the Brain (MIB), of which she currently is Principal Investigator of Learning and Executive Board member, a center of excellence focused on predictive coding of music theory and funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (project number 117). Moreover, she is a pioneer in research on music empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics, as witnessed by her keynote addresses at international conferences, her board membership at the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (IAEA), and invited chapters in the major books of the field (e.g. published by Oxford University Press). Periodically, she acts as panelist for the European Commission and as reviewer for various international funding agencies. In 2021 she was program coordinator and host organizer for the major conference of the music neuroscience. She is board member of several international associations, such as Neuromusic, CICERO Learning, ESCOM Italy. She was co-founder and module leader of Aesthetics for the Finnish Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Finnish Research (funded by the Academy of Finland), Visiting Researcher at the Rotman Research Institute, Toronto and Université de Montreal, Canada, Core Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Research Fellow at the Aalto University School of Science, and Post-doctoral Fellow of the Academy of Finland.  Elvira Brattico has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in various areas of empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics of music (Google Scholar citations = 8307; h-index = 50; 22.7.22).  She was Section Editor of Neuroscience for the journal Heliyon (2020), and is a member of the Editorial Board of the journals Frontiers in Psychology (since 2010), Psychomusicology (since 2016), Applied Sciences (since 2019), PLOS ONE (from 2014 to 2018), and she has recently co-edited a special issue for the journal Frontiers in Psychology as well as books for Routledge and Wiley.

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Published Sep. 27, 2022 10:03 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2022 9:03 AM