Musical Lexical

One brain imaging study has addressed sight-reading. Justine Sargent and associates measured CBF during silent score reading of a Bach chorale and subtracted it from activation during perception of dots (and manual responses to their location). Activation during silent score reading was greater bilaterally in extrastriate visual cortex and in the left occipitoparietal junction. This suggests activity in the dorsal visual pathway, which is involved in spatial processing, as opposed to the ventral visual pathway, important for words. When score reading alone was subtracted from score reading while listening to a recorded rendition, activation was observed not only in auditory cortex bilaterally but also in the left supramarginal gyrus. However, the portion of the supramarginal gyrus activated was superior to that thought to be critical for verbal print-to-sound mapping.

Following brain damage, associations between musical and verbal alexia (or loss of reading ability) have frequently been reported, such as the cases of Bouillaud in 1865 and the French composer Maurice Ravel toward the end of his degenerative brain disorder. However, many cases of dissociation have been reported, including Ravel earlier in the course of his illness. Although some cases of selective musical alexia involve the right hemisphere, others involve the left hemisphere. Dissociations and associations may occur following left hemisphere damage, depending on whether adjacent but nonoverlapping critical areas are damaged together or separately.

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