High-Order Areas and Auditory Cortex Both Represent the High-Level Event Structure of Music

Jamal A. Williams, Elizabeth H. Margulis, Samuel A. Nastase, Janice Chen, Uri Hasson, Kenneth A. Norman, Christopher Baldassano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent fMRI studies of event segmentation have found that default mode regions represent high-level event structure during movie watching. In these regions, neural patterns are relatively stable during events and shift at event boundaries. Music, like narratives, contains hierarchical event structure (e.g., sections are composed of phrases). Here, we tested the hypothesis that brain activity patterns in default mode regions reflect the highlevel event structure of music. We used fMRI to record brain activity from 25 participants (male and female) as they listened to a continuous playlist of 16 musical excerpts and additionally collected annotations for these excerpts by asking a separate group of participants to mark when meaningful changes occurred in each one. We then identified temporal boundaries between stable patterns of brain activityusingahiddenMarkovmodel and compared the location of the model boundaries to the location of the human annotations. We identified multiple brain regions with significant matches to the observer-identified boundaries, including auditory cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, and angular gyrus. From these results, we conclude that both higher-order and sensory areas contain information relating to the high-level event structure of music. Moreover, the higher-order areas in this study overlap with areas found in previous studies of event perception in movies and audio narratives, including regions in the default mode network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-714
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 5 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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