Altered retrieval of melodic information in congenital amusia: insights from dynamic causal modeling of MEG data

Philippe Albouy, Jérémie Mattout, Gaëtan Sanchez, Barbara Tillmann, Anne Caclin
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2015, 9: 20
Congenital amusia is a neuro-developmental disorder that primarily manifests as a difficulty in the perception and memory of pitch-based materials, including music. Recent findings have shown that the amusic brain exhibits altered functioning of a fronto-temporal network during pitch perception and short-term memory. Within this network, during the encoding of melodies, a decreased right backward frontal-to-temporal connectivity was reported in amusia, along with an abnormal connectivity within and between auditory cortices. The present study investigated whether connectivity patterns between these regions were affected during the short-term memory retrieval of melodies. Amusics and controls had to indicate whether sequences of six tones that were presented in pairs were the same or different. When melodies were different only one tone changed in the second melody. Brain responses to the changed tone in "Different" trials and to its equivalent (original) tone in "Same" trials were compared between groups using Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM). DCM results confirmed that congenital amusia is characterized by an altered effective connectivity within and between the two auditory cortices during sound processing. Furthermore, right temporal-to-frontal message passing was altered in comparison to controls, with notably an increase in "Same" trials. An additional analysis in control participants emphasized that the detection of an unexpected event in the typically functioning brain is supported by right fronto-temporal connections. The results can be interpreted in a predictive coding framework as reflecting an abnormal prediction error sent by temporal auditory regions towards frontal areas in the amusic brain.

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