Musical imagery depends upon coordination of auditory and sensorimotor brain activity

Rebecca W. Gelding*, William F. Thompson, Blake W. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Recent magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies have established that sensorimotor brain rhythms are strongly modulated during mental imagery of musical beat and rhythm, suggesting that motor regions of the brain are important for temporal aspects of musical imagery. The present study examined whether these rhythms also play a role in non-temporal aspects of musical imagery including musical pitch. Brain function was measured with MEG from 19 healthy adults while they performed a validated musical pitch imagery task and two non-imagery control tasks with identical temporal characteristics. A 4-dipole source model probed activity in bilateral auditory and sensorimotor cortices. Significantly greater β-band modulation was found during imagery compared to control tasks of auditory perception and mental arithmetic. Imagery-induced β-modulation showed no significant differences between auditory and sensorimotor regions, which may reflect a tightly coordinated mode of communication between these areas. Directed connectivity analysis in the θ-band revealed that the left sensorimotor region drove left auditory region during imagery onset. These results add to the growing evidence that motor regions of the brain are involved in the top-down generation of musical imagery, and that imagery-like processes may be involved in musical perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16823
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


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