Making sense of music: Insights from neurophysiology and connectivity analyses in naturalistic listening conditions

Elvira Brattico*, Marianna Delussi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleCommissionedpeer-review


According to the latest frameworks, 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 neural hierarchical mechanisms for predictive processes in perception and memory for sounds are typically studied in relation to simple acoustic features in isolated sounds or sound patterns inserted in highly certain contexts. Such studies have identified reliable prediction formation and error signals, e.g., the N100 or the mismatch negativity (MMN) evoked responses. In real life, though, individuals often face situations in which uncertainty prevails and where making sense of sounds becomes a hard challenge. In music, not only deviations from predictions are masterly set up by composers to induce emotions but sometimes the sheer uncertainty of sound scenes is exploited for aesthetic purposes, especially in compositional styles such as Western atonal classical music. In very recent magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG) studies, experimental and technical advances in stimulation paradigms and analysis approaches have permitted the identification of prediction-error responses from highly uncertain, atonal contexts and the extraction of prediction-related responses from real, continuous music. Moreover, functional connectivity analyses revealed the emergence of cortico-hippocampal interactions during the formation of auditory memories for more predictable vs. less predictable patterns. These findings contribute to understanding the general brain mechanisms that enable us to predict even highly uncertain sound environments and to possibly make sense of and appreciate even atonal music.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108923
JournalHearing Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Atonal music
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Prediction
  • Recognition memory
  • Sound encoding
  • Music/psychology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory/physiology
  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception/physiology
  • Humans
  • Electroencephalography
  • Neurophysiology


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