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Mireille Besson

Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives (LNC, Marseille)

Cuban music is known all over the world and music is a strong part of Cuban life. During the sabbatical year that I spent at the Cuban Neuroscience Center, we conducted a project aimed at comparing passive and active perception of foreign syllables in Cuban musicians and visual artists. We used a multi-feature Mismatch Negativity (MMN) design with a sequence of syllables in Mandarin Chinese and a sequence of harmonic tones, both comprising deviants in pitch contour, duration and VOT that were either far from (Large deviants) or close to (Small deviants) the standard. For both Mandarin syllables and harmonic tones, results showed larger MMNs to pitch contour deviants in musicians than in visual artists. Results were less clear for duration and VOT deviants, possibly due to the specific characteristics of the stimuli that were used. The implications of these results for our understanding of the influence of musical training on speech perception and on second language learning will be discussed as well as the preliminary results related to the active perception of these speech and harmonic sounds (discrimination : behavior and ERPs).