Covert and overt vocal activity during musical imagery and singing: A surface electromyographic study.
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Extensive voice research has examined the role of the muscles involved in the vocalization of pitch. The current research contributes to this body of work by using surface electromyography (sEMG) to measure orofacial and laryngeal muscle activities during singing. A Pitch Imitation Task was used as a platform for this examination, where participants imitated pitch sequences containing intervals of predefined sizes. The results verified observations that the sternohyoid muscle in the neck contributes to vocal pitch control by lowering the larynx’s elevation when producing low pitches. The second goal of the research was to link these muscle activities during overt singing to subtle laryngeal muscle movements that accompany musical imagery. The Imagery and Reproduction Task required participants to imagine a target melody and then sing it as accurately as possible. sEMG activity of the sternohyoid muscles were monitored during the imagery phase while participants synchronized each imagined note of the melody with a pacing sound. The nature of the pacing sound differed to determine the effects of within-domain (tonal and atonal pitches) and cross-domain (nonwords) distractors on singing accuracy. Singing performance was disrupted by distractors and to different degrees based on distractor type. It was also hypothesized that subvocal activity would be affected by these experimental manipulations as well. However, the results showed that sEMG activity during musical imagery did not vary across these independent variable manipulations.