Cortical tracking of rhythm in music and speech

Eleanor E Harding, Daniela Sammler, Molly J Henry, Edward W Large, Sonja A Kotz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Web of Science)
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Neural activity phase-locks to rhythm in both music and speech. However, the literature currently lacks a direct test of whether cortical tracking of comparable rhythmic structure is comparable across domains. Moreover, although musical training improves multiple aspects of music and speech perception, the relationship between musical training and cortical tracking of rhythm has not been compared directly across domains. We recorded the electroencephalograms (EEG) from 28 participants (14 female) with a range of musical training who listened to melodies and sentences with identical rhythmic structure. We compared cerebral-acoustic coherence (CACoh) between the EEG signal and single-trial stimulus envelopes (as measure of cortical entrainment) across domains and correlated years of musical training with CACoh. We hypothesized that neural activity would be comparably phase-locked across domains, and that the amount of musical training would be associated with increasingly strong phase locking in both domains. We found that participants with only a few years of musical training had a comparable cortical response to music and speech rhythm, partially supporting the hypothesis. However, the cortical response to music rhythm increased with years of musical training while the response to speech rhythm did not, leading to an overall greater cortical response to music rhythm across all participants. We suggest that task demands shaped the asymmetric cortical tracking across domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
Early online date15 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019


  • BEAT
  • EEG
  • Entrainment
  • Music
  • Music training
  • N1 WAVE
  • Rhythm
  • Speech
  • TIME

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