there is debate about the extent of overlap between music and language processing in the brain and whether these processes are functionally independent in expert musicians. A language comprehension task and a visuospatial search task were administered to 36 expert musicians and 36 matched nonmusicians in conditions of silence and piano music played correctly and incorrectly. Musicians performed more poorly on the language comprehension task in the presence of background music compared to silence, but there was no effect of background music on the musicians' performance on the visuospatial task. In contrast, the performance of nonmusicians was not affected by music on either task. The findings challenge the view that music and language are functionally independent in expert musicians, and instead suggest that when musicians process music they recruit a network that overlaps with the network used in language processing. Additionally, musicians outperformed nonmusicians on both tasks, reflecting either a general cognitive advantage in musicians or enhancement of more specific cognitive abilities such as processing speed or executive functioning.
- music expertise
- music and language
- music and functional independence
- language processing
- cognitive processing
- Received December 2, 2010.
- Accepted July 24, 2011.
- © 2011 by The Regents of the University of California