Date Published:2010 Mar
INTRODUCTION: Although the substrates that mediate singing abilities in the human brain are not well understood, invasive brain mapping techniques used for clinical decision making such as intracranial electro-cortical testing and Wada testing offer a rare opportunity to examine music-related function in a select group of subjects, affording exceptional spatial and temporal specificity. METHODS: We studied eight patients with medically refractory epilepsy undergoing indwelling subdural electrode seizure focus localization. All patients underwent Wada testing for language lateralization. Functional assessment of language and music tasks was done by electrode grid cortical stimulation. One patient was also tested non-invasively with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Functional organization of singing ability compared to language ability was determined based on four regions-of-interest (ROIs): left and right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and left and right posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG). RESULTS: In some subjects, electrical stimulation of dominant pSTG can interfere with speech and not singing, whereas stimulation of non-dominant pSTG area can interfere with singing and not speech. Stimulation of the dominant IFG tends to interfere with both musical and language expression, while non-dominant IFG stimulation was often observed to cause no interference with either task; and finally, that stimulation of areas adjacent to but not within non-dominant pSTG typically does not affect either ability. Functional fMRI mappings of one subject revealed similar music/language dissociation with respect to activation asymmetry within the ROIs. CONCLUSION: Despite inherent limitations with respect to strictly research objectives, invasive clinical techniques offer a rare opportunity to probe musical and language cognitive processes of the brain in a select group of patients.