Our proposal presents a unique and innovative approach to extend basic scientific research in biomusicology and neurolinguistics towards development of improved clinical therapies for aphasic patients. The concept is grounded in previous work of the applicants, marrying their theoretical and clinical research strengths, and represents their first attempt at collaboration. The proposal represents a balanced multi-methodological approach, in a hypothesis-testing framework, and will establish a new connection between the cognitive and neuroscientific expertise at the University of Vienna with the medical and neuroimaging expertise at the Medical University of Vienna. It is thus well-suited for the Research Cluster concept.
The core aim of this project is to characterize the brain regions involved in language and music using fMRI, with the goal of disentangling the complex pattern of overlap found in previous studies. We will accomplish this by using a new set of tasks designed for this purpose, and the behavioural portion of the study involves designing and testing these tasks.
There are two core variables that we will manipulate: "algorithmic complexity" (measured using formal language theory, for the perceptual tasks only) and simple "task difficulty" (perception and production, where difficulty is controlled via stimulus length). In the perceptual studies, we will compare performance on musical and linguistic tasks when progressing from simple stimuli (constructed using simple classes of computational systems) to more complex stimulus configurations (constructed with more complex computational systems).
We will use an artificial grammar learning paradigm, exposing participants to a large number of stimuli generated using a certain algorithm, and then testing what grammar they have learned by probing with novel stimuli that either fit the intended algorithm or not. This enables us to address fundamental questions about the nature of the computations underlying music and language.