Music of the 7Ts: Predicting and Decoding Multivoxel fMRI Responses with Acoustic, Schematic, and Categorical Music Features

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Publication Date


Publication Title

Frontiers in Psychiatry


Department of Music

Additional Department

Department of Computer Science


Underlying the experience of listening to music are parallel streams of auditory, categorical, and schematic qualia, whose representations and cortical organization remain largely unresolved. We collected high-field (7T) fMRI data in a music listening task, and analyzed the data using multivariate decoding and stimulus-encoding models. Twenty subjects participated in the experiment, which measured BOLD responses evoked by naturalistic listening to twenty-five music clips from five genres. Our first analysis applied machine classification to the multivoxel patterns that were evoked in temporal cortex. Results yielded above-chance levels for both stimulus identification and genre classification-cross-validated by holding out data frommultiple of the stimuli during model training and then testing decoding performance on the held-out data. Genremodel misclassifications were significantly correlated with those in a corresponding behavioral music categorization task, supporting the hypothesis that geometric properties of multivoxel pattern spaces underlie observed musical behavior. A second analysis employed a spherical searchlight regression analysis which predicted multivoxel pattern responses to music features representing melody and harmony across a large area of cortex. The resulting prediction-accuracy maps yielded significant clusters in the temporal, frontal, parietal, and occipital lobes, as well as in the parahippocampal gyrus and the cerebellum. These maps provide evidence in support of our hypothesis that geometric properties of music cognition are neurally encoded as multivoxel representational spaces. The maps also reveal a cortical topography that differentially encodes categorical and absolute-pitch information in distributed and overlapping networks, with smaller specialized regions that encode tonal music information in relative-pitch representations.



Original Citation

Casey MA. Music of the 7Ts: Predicting and Decoding Multivoxel fMRI Responses with Acoustic, Schematic, and Categorical Music Features. Front Psychol. 2017 Jul 14;8:1179. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01179. PMID: 28769835; PMCID: PMC5509941.