A causal involvement of the left supramarginal gyrus during the retention of musical pitches

Nora K. Schaal, Victoria J. Williamson, Maria Kelly, Neil G. Muggleton, Bettina Pollok, Vanessa Krause, Michael J. Banissy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Brain stimulation studies have previously demonstrated a causal link between general pitch memory processes and activity within the left supramarginal gyrus (SMG). Building on this evidence, the present study tested the impact of left SMG stimulation on two distinct pitch memory phases, retention and encoding. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was employed during the retention stage (Experiment 1) and the encoding phase (Experiment 2) of a pitch recognition task. Stimulation was applied on a trial-by-trial basis over the left SMG (target site) or the vertex (control site). A block without TMS was also completed. In Experiment 1, rTMS over the left SMG during pitch retention led to significantly increased reaction times compared to control conditions. In Experiment 2 no rTMS modulation effects were found during encoding. Experiment 3 was conducted as a control for non-specific stimulation effects; no effects were found when rTMS was applied over the left SMG at the two different time points during a perceptual task. Taken together, these findings highlight a phase-specific involvement of the left SMG in the retention phase of pitch memory, thereby indicating that the left SMG is involved in the maintenance of pitch information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-317
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • Left supramarginal gyrus
  • Pitch memory
  • Retention
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation


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