Investigations into the role of early visual cortex in expertise reading musical notation
Wong, Yetta Kwai Ling
This dissertation aims at investigating the role of early visual cortex in music reading expertise. This work was motivated by the surprising finding of neural selectivity for musical notes in early visual cortex with music reading expertise, which is not predicted by current theories about the role of early visual cortex in object recognition or in perceptual expertise. In this dissertation, I investigated the mechanisms underlying the recruitment of early visual cortex for musical notes by examining the temporal dynamics of the neural selectivity for musical notation using scalp electrophysiological recordings. I found that expertise effects for musical notes could be observed as early as 40-60ms after stimulus onset, suggesting that the initial visual processes for notes have been altered with experience in music reading. This early selectivity for notes is predicted by degrees of crowding and holistic processing within music reading experts, supporting the functional significance of this early effect. These results imply that the recruitment of the early visual cortex is, at least partially, a feedforward effect, and suggest that early visual cells become selective for musical notes with the acquisition of music reading expertise.