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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 11 November 2010 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00193

Non-invasive brain stimulation applied to Heschl’s gyrus modulates pitch discrimination

  • Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

The neural basis of the human brain’s ability to discriminate pitch has been investigated by functional neuroimaging and the study of lesioned brains, indicating the critical importance of right and left Heschl’s gyrus (HG) in pitch perception. Nonetheless, there remains some uncertainty with regard to localization and lateralization of pitch discrimination, partly because neuroimaging results do not allow us to draw inferences about the causality. To address the problem of causality in pitch discrimination functions, we used transcranial direct current stimulation to downregulate (via cathodal stimulation) and upregulate (via anodal stimulation) excitability in either left or right auditory cortex and measured the effect on performance in a pitch discrimination task in comparison with sham stimulation. Cathodal stimulation of HG on the left and on the right hemispheres adversely affected pitch discrimination in comparison to sham stimulation, with the effect on the right being significantly stronger than on the left. Anodal stimulation on either side had no effect on performance in comparison to sham. Our results indicate that both left and right HG are causally involved in pitch discrimination, although the right auditory cortex might be a stronger contributor.

Keywords: pitch perception, brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, auditory cortex

Citation: Mathys C, Loui P, Zheng X and Schlaug G (2010) Non-invasive brain stimulation applied to Heschl’s gyrus modulates pitch discrimination. Front. Psychology 1:193. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00193

Received: 18 July 2010; Paper pending published: 30 September 2010;
Accepted: 20 October 2010; Published online: 11 November 2010.

Edited by:

Eckart Altenmüller, University of Music and Drama Hannover, Germany

Reviewed by:

Lutz Jäncke, University of Zurich, Switzerland;
Christo Pantev, University of Muenster, Germany;
Eckart Altenmüller, University of Music and Drama Hannover, Germany

Copyright: © 2010 Mathys, Loui, Zheng and Schlaug. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Gottfried Schlaug, Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA. e-mail: gschlaug@bidmc.harvard.edu