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Neural encoding of novel and familiar proto-musical patterns in humans and monkeys


The capacity to perceive and produce music – musicality – has ancient but mysterious roots. While musicality is nearly ubiquitous across human ages and cultures, it seems to be scarcely developed in non-human primates such as rhesus monkeys. This is surprising given that rhesus monkeys are not only one of our closest relatives, but also a fundamental model for human auditory function and communication. PHYLOMUSIC proposes an innovative approach to the study of musicality in non-human primates (macaca mulatta). Rather than focusing on isolated musical features such as tone-order or rhythm, it combines them to form proto-musical patterns. PHYLOMUSIC takes (i) the detection of proto-musical patterns, and (ii) their memorization as two pillars of musicality. With this, PHYLOMUSIC proposes a series of non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) studies aimed to test whether and how proto-musical patterns are detected and memorized (in both short- and long-term) in rhesus monkeys and (as a comparison) in humans. Combining notions from comparative research, music, auditory computational neuroscience, and state-of-the-art brain signal analysis, PHYLOMUSIC is a multi-disciplinary project that has the potential to impact upon three distinct research areas. First, it will shed light upon the mysterious evolutionary origins of musicality, unveiling whether music processing is phylogenetically conserved, and how mnemonic systems may have evolved to support musicality in humans. Second, it will introduce novel analytical approaches to the fast-rising field of non-human primate neuroimaging. Last but not least, it might provide an empirical ground for realistically testing – at the neuronal and circuitry level – the widespread use of music in clinical settings, having noteworthy implications for human health.


Net EU contribution
€ 188 590,08
Via Morego 30
16163 Genova

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Nord-Ovest Liguria Genova
Activity type
Research Organisations
Non-EU contribution
No data