Risk of depression enhances auditory Pitch discrimination in the brain as indexed by the mismatch negativity

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Objective Depression is a state of aversion to activity and low mood that affects behaviour, thoughts, feelings and sense of well-being. Moreover, the individual depression trait is associated with altered auditory cortex activation and appraisal of the affective content of sounds. Methods Mismatch negativity responses (MMNs) to acoustic feature changes (pitch, timbre, location, intensity, slide and rhythm) inserted in a musical sequence played in major or minor mode were recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG) in 88 subclinical participants with depression risk. Results We found correlations between MMNs to slide and pitch and the level of depression risk reported by participants, indicating that higher MMNs correspond to higher risk of depression. Furthermore we found significantly higher MMN amplitudes to mistuned pitches within a major context compared to MMNs to pitch changes in a minor context. Conclusions The brains of individuals with depression risk are more responsive to mistuned and fast pitch stimulus changes, even at a pre-attentive level. Significance Considering the altered appraisal of affective contents of sounds in depression and the relevance of spectral pitch features for those contents in music and speech, we propose that individuals with subclinical depression risk are more tuned to tracking sudden pitch changes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Pages (from-to)1923-1936
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Depression
  • Magnetoenchephalography (MEG)
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Musical multi-feature paradigm
  • Pitch


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