Research Article

The Cortical Topography of Tonal Structures Underlying Western Music

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Science  13 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5601, pp. 2167-2170
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076262

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Western tonal music relies on a formal geometric structure that determines distance relationships within a harmonic or tonal space. In functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments, we identified an area in the rostromedial prefrontal cortex that tracks activation in tonal space. Different voxels in this area exhibited selectivity for different keys. Within the same set of consistently activated voxels, the topography of tonality selectivity rearranged itself across scanning sessions. The tonality structure was thus maintained as a dynamic topography in cortical areas known to be at a nexus of cognitive, affective, and mnemonic processing.

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