Based on growing evidence suggesting that professional music training facilitates foreign language perception and learning, we examined the impact of musical expertise on the categorisation of syllables including phonemes that did (/p/, /b/) or did not (/ph/) belong to the French repertoire by analysing both behaviour (error rates and reaction times) and Event-Related brain Potentials (N200 and P300 components). Professional musicians and nonmusicians categorised syllables either as /ba/ or /pa/ (voicing task), or as /pa/ or /pha/ with /ph/ being a nonnative phoneme for French speakers (aspiration task). In line with our hypotheses, results showed that musicians outperformed nonmusicians in the aspiration task but not in the voicing task. Moreover, the difference between the native (/p/) and the nonnative phoneme (/ph/), as reflected in N200 and P300 amplitudes, was larger in musicians than in nonmusicians in the aspiration task but not in the voicing task. These results show that behaviour and brain activity associated to nonnative phoneme perception are influenced by musical expertise and that these effects are task-dependent. The implications of these findings for current models of phoneme perception and for understanding the qualitative and quantitative differences found on the N200 and P300 components are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- event-related potentials
- music training
- syllabic categorisation