Neural correlates of music listening and recall in the human brain

Yue Ding, Yang Zhang, Wenjing Zhou, Zhipei Ling, Juan Huang, Bo Hong, Xiaoqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Previous neuroimaging studies have identified various brain regions that are activated by music listening or recall. However, little is known about how these brain regions represent the time course and temporal features of music during listening and recall. Here we analyzed neural activity in different brain regions associated with music listening and recall using electrocorticography recordings obtained from 10 epilepsy patients of both genders implanted with subdural electrodes. Electrocorticography signals were recorded while subjects were listening to familiar instrumental music or recalling the same music pieces by imagery. During the onset phase (0 -500 ms), music listening initiated cortical activity in high-gamma band in the temporal lobe and supramarginal gyrus, followed by the precentral gyrus and the inferior frontal gyrus. In contrast, during music recall, the high-gamma band activity first appeared in the inferior frontal gyrus and precentral gyrus, and then spread to the temporal lobe, showing a reversed temporal sequential order. During the sustained phase (after 500 ms), delta band and high-gamma band responses in the supramarginal gyrus, temporal and frontal lobes dynamically tracked the intensity envelope of the music during listening or recall with distinct temporal delays. During music listening, the neural tracking by the frontal lobe lagged behind that of the temporal lobe; whereas during music recall, the neural tracking by the frontal lobe preceded that of the temporal lobe. These findings demonstrate bottom-up and top-down processes in the cerebral cortex during music listening and recall and provide important insights into music processing by the human brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8112-8123
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number41
StatePublished - 2021


  • Auditory
  • ECoG
  • Hearing
  • Memory
  • Music
  • Recall

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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