Consonance is a distinctive attribute of musical sounds, for which a psychophysical explanation has been found leading to the critical band perceptual model. Recently this model has been hypothesized to play a role also during tactile perception. In this paper the sensitivity to vibrotactile consonance was subjectively tested in musicians and non-musicians. Before the test, both such groups listened to twelve melodic intervals played with a bass guitar. After being acoustically isolated, participants were exposed to the same intervals in the form of either a whole-body or foot-based vibrotactile stimulus. On each trial they had to identify whether an interval was ascending, descending or unison. Musicians were additionally asked to label every interval using standard musical nomenclature. The intervals identification as well as their labeling was above chance, but became progressively more uncertain for decreasing consonance and when the stimuli were presented underfoot. Musicians’ labeling of the stimuli was incorrect when dissonant vibrotactile intervals were presented underfoot. Compared to existing literature on auditory, tactile and multisensory perception, our results reinforce the idea that vibrotactile musical consonance plays a perceptual role in both musicians and non-musicians. Might this role be the result of a process occurring at central and/or peripheral level, involving or not activation of the auditory cortex, concurrent reception from selective somatosensory channels, correlation with residual auditory information reaching the basilar membrane through bone conduction, is a question our preliminary exploration leaves open to further research work.
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