Cortical sensitivity to guitar note patterns: EEG entrainment to repetition and key

David A. Bridwell, Emily Leslie, Dakarai Q. McCoy, Sergey M. Plis, Vince D. Calhoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Music is ubiquitous throughout recent human culture, and many individual’s have an innate ability to appreciate and understand music. Our appreciation of music likely emerges from the brain’s ability to process a series of repeated complex acoustic patterns. In order to understand these processes further, cortical responses were measured to a series of guitar notes presented with a musical pattern or without a pattern. ERP responses to individual notes were measured using a 24 electrode Bluetooth mobile EEG system (Smarting mBrainTrain) while 13 healthy non-musicians listened to structured (i.e., within musical keys and with repetition) or randomsequences of guitar notes for 10 min each. We demonstrate an increased amplitude to the ERP that appears ∼200 ms to notes presented within the musical sequence. This amplitude difference between random notes and patterned notes likely reflects individual’s cortical sensitivity to guitar note patterns. These amplitudes were compared to ERP responses to a rare note embedded within a stream of frequent notes to determine whether the sensitivity to complex musical structure overlaps with the sensitivity to simple irregularities reflected in traditional auditory oddball experiments. Response amplitudes to the negative peak at ∼175 ms are statistically correlated with the mismatch negativity (MMN) response measured to a rare note presented among a series of frequent notes (i.e., in a traditional oddball sequence), but responses to the subsequent positive peak at ∼200 do not show a statistical relationship with the P300 response. Thus, the sensitivity to musical structure identified to 4 Hz note patterns appears somewhat distinct from the sensitivity to statistical regularities reflected in the traditional “auditory oddball” sequence. Overall, we suggest that this is a promising approach to examine individual’s sensitivity to complex acoustic patterns, which may overlap with higher level cognitive processes, including language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Frequency tagging
  • Guitar
  • Mobile EEG
  • Music
  • Oddball

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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