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Faster native vowel discrimination learning in musicians is mediated by an optimization of mnemonic functions


Elmer, Stefan; Greber, Marielle; Pushparaj, Arethy; Kühnis, Jürg; Jäncke, Lutz (2017). Faster native vowel discrimination learning in musicians is mediated by an optimization of mnemonic functions. Neuropsychologia, 104:64-75.

Abstract

The ability to discriminate phonemes varying in spectral and temporal attributes constitutes one of the most basic intrinsic elements underlying language learning mechanisms. Since previous work has consistently shown that professional musicians are characterized by perceptual and cognitive advantages in a variety of language-related tasks, and since vowels can be considered musical sounds within the domain of speech, here we investigated the behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of native vowel discrimination learning in a sample of professional musicians and non-musicians. We evaluated the contribution of both the neurophysiological underpinnings of perceptual (i.e., N1/P2 complex) and mnemonic functions (i.e., N400 and P600 responses) while the participants were instructed to judge whether pairs of native consonant-vowel (CV) syllables manipulated in the first formant transition of the vowel (i.e., from /tu/ to /to/) were identical or not. Results clearly demonstrated faster learning in musicians, compared to non-musicians, as reflected by shorter reaction times and higher accuracy. Most notably, in terms of morphology, time course, and voltage strength, this steeper learning curve was accompanied by distinctive N400 and P600 manifestations between the two groups. In contrast, we did not reveal any group differences during the early stages of auditory processing (i.e., N1/P2 complex), suggesting that faster learning was mediated by an optimization of mnemonic but not perceptual functions. Based on a clear taxonomy of the mnemonic functions involved in the task, results are interpreted as pointing to a relationship between faster learning mechanisms in musicians and an optimization of echoic (i.e., N400 component) and working memory (i.e., P600 component) functions.

Abstract

The ability to discriminate phonemes varying in spectral and temporal attributes constitutes one of the most basic intrinsic elements underlying language learning mechanisms. Since previous work has consistently shown that professional musicians are characterized by perceptual and cognitive advantages in a variety of language-related tasks, and since vowels can be considered musical sounds within the domain of speech, here we investigated the behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of native vowel discrimination learning in a sample of professional musicians and non-musicians. We evaluated the contribution of both the neurophysiological underpinnings of perceptual (i.e., N1/P2 complex) and mnemonic functions (i.e., N400 and P600 responses) while the participants were instructed to judge whether pairs of native consonant-vowel (CV) syllables manipulated in the first formant transition of the vowel (i.e., from /tu/ to /to/) were identical or not. Results clearly demonstrated faster learning in musicians, compared to non-musicians, as reflected by shorter reaction times and higher accuracy. Most notably, in terms of morphology, time course, and voltage strength, this steeper learning curve was accompanied by distinctive N400 and P600 manifestations between the two groups. In contrast, we did not reveal any group differences during the early stages of auditory processing (i.e., N1/P2 complex), suggesting that faster learning was mediated by an optimization of mnemonic but not perceptual functions. Based on a clear taxonomy of the mnemonic functions involved in the task, results are interpreted as pointing to a relationship between faster learning mechanisms in musicians and an optimization of echoic (i.e., N400 component) and working memory (i.e., P600 component) functions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 University Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:DoktoratPsych
Language:English
Date:September 2017
Deposited On:15 Jan 2018 11:10
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 12:57
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0028-3932
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.08.001
PubMed ID:28780308
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID320030_163149
  • : Project TitleDie neuronalen Grundlagen des absoluten Gehörs und der Ton-Farbsynästhesie: Zwei Seiten einer Medaille?

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