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Music, language may meet in the brain

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8:40am, May 2, 2001

Corresponding left- and right-brain areas that are considered crucial for understanding spoken language also orchestrate the perception of musical passages, according to a study in the May Nature Neuroscience.

These brain regions deal with implicit rules that organize complex information, such as music and language, theorizes a team of neuroscientists led by Burkhard Maess of the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in Leipzig, Germany.

Music principles function much as grammatical rules in language do, Maess' group says. For instance, music theorists hold that certain chord sequences in the same key fit harmonically better than others, at least in Western classical music. Moreover, musically untrained listeners usually agree with the theorists about whether or not chord sequences sound musical.

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