We used fMRI to investigate the neuronal correlates of encoding and recognizing heard and imagined melodies. Ten participants were shown lyrics of familiar verbal tunes; they either heard the tune along with the lyrics, or they had to imagine it. In a subsequent surprise recognition test, they had to identify the titles of tunes that they had heard or imagined earlier. The functional data showed substantial overlap during melody perception and imagery, including secondary auditory areas. During imagery compared with perception, an extended network including pFC, SMA, intraparietal sulcus, and cerebellum showed increased activity, in line with the increased processing demands of imagery. Functional connectivity of anterior right temporal cortex with frontal areas was increased during imagery compared with perception, indicating that these areas form an imagery-related network. Activity in right superior temporal gyrus and pFC was correlated with the subjective rating of imagery vividness. Similar to the encoding phase, the recognition task recruited overlapping areas, including inferior frontal cortex associated with memory retrieval, as well as left middle temporal gyrus. The results present new evidence for the cortical network underlying goal-directed auditory imagery, with a prominent role of the right pFC both for the subjective impression of imagery vividness and for on-line mental monitoring of imagery-related activity in auditory areas.

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