Visual training with musical notes changes late but not early electrophysiological responses in the visual cortex

Alan C.N. WONG*, Terri Y.K. NG, Kelvin F.K. LUI, Ken H.M. YIP, Yetta Kwailing WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Visual expertise with musical notation is unique. Fluent music readers show selectively higher activity to musical notes than to other visually similar patterns in both the retinotopic and higher-level visual areas and both very early (e.g., C1) and later (e.g., N170) visual event-related potential (ERP) components. This is different from domains such as face and letter perception, of which the neural expertise marker is typically found in the higherlevel ventral visual areas and later (e.g., N170) ERP components. An intriguing question concerns whether the visual skills and neural selectivity observed in musicreading experts are a result of the effects of extensive visual experience with musical notation. The current study aimed to investigate the causal relationship between visual experience and its neural changes with musical notation. Novices with no formal musical training experience were trained to visually discriminate between note patterns in the laboratory for 10-26 hr such that their performance was comparable with fluent music readers. The N170 component became more selective for musical notes after training. Training was not, however, followed by changes in the earlier C1 component. The findings show that visual training is enough for causing changes in the responses of the higher-level visual areas to musical notation while the engagement of the early visual areas may involve additional nonvisual factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number7
Early online date18 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research was supported by the General Research Fund (14411814) from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and the Direct Grant (2021100) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong to A. C.-N. W.


  • EEG
  • Expert object recognition
  • Musical notation
  • Perceptual expertise
  • Perceptual learning


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