Previous psychological studies have shown that musical chords primed by Western musical scale in a tonal and modal schema are perceived in a hierarchy of stability. We investigated such priming effects on auditory magnetic responses to tonic-major and submediant-minor chords preceded by major scales and tonic-minor and submediant-major chords preceded by minor scales. Musically trained subjects participated in the experiment. During MEG recordings, subjects judged perceptual stability of the chords. The tonic chords were judged to be stable, whereas the submediant chords were judged to be unstable. Dipole moments of N1m response originating in the auditory cortex were larger in the left hemisphere for the submediant chords than for the tonic chords preceded by the major but not minor scales. No difference in the N1m or P2m moment was found for the chords presented without preceding scales. These results suggest priming effects of the tonal schema, interacting with contextual modality, on neural activity of the auditory cortex as well as perceptual stability of the chords. It is inferred that modulation of the auditory cortical activity is associated with attention induced by tonal instability and modality shift, which characterize the submediant chords.
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