Left hemispheric lateralization of brain activity during passive rhythm perception in musicians

Charles J. Limb, Stefan Kemeny, Eric B. Ortigoza, Sherin Rouhani, Allen R. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The nature of hemispheric specialization of brain activity during rhythm processing remains poorly understood. The locus for rhythmic processing has been difficult to identify and there have been several contradictory findings. We therefore used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study passive rhythm perception to investigate the hypotheses that rhythm processing results in left hemispheric lateralization of brain activity and is affected by musical training. Twelve musicians and 12 nonmusicians listened to regular and random rhythmic patterns. Conjunction analysis revealed a shared network of neural structures (bilateral superior temporal areas, left inferior parietal lobule, and right frontal operculum) responsible for rhythm perception independent of musical background. In contrast, random-effects analysis showed greater left lateralization of brain activity in musicians compared to nonmusicians during regular rhythm perception, particularly within the perisylvian cortices (left frontal operculum, superior temporal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule). These results suggest that musical training leads to the employment of left-sided perisylvian brain areas, typically active during language comprehension, during passive rhythm perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-389
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Auditory cortex
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Perisylvian
  • Rhythm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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