Thursday, October 29, 2009

The brain's anatomy of emotion induced by music.

From Tranel, Adolphs, and collaborators, a fascinating piece of work reported in the International Journal of Psychology (check out the other articles in this issue, which has the theme 'Central and peripheral nervous system interactions: From mind to brain to body' Here is the abstract from their paper, followed by one table:
Does feeling an emotion require changes in autonomic responses, as William James proposed? Can feelings and autonomic responses be dissociated? Findings from cognitive neuroscience have identified brain structures that subserve feelings and autonomic response, including those induced by emotional music. In the study reported here, we explored whether feelings and autonomic responses can be dissociated by using music, a stimulus that has a strong capacity to induce emotional experiences. We tested two brain regions predicted to be differentially involved in autonomic responsivity (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and feeling (the right somatosensory cortex). Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were impaired in their ability to generate skin-conductance responses to music, but generated normal judgments of their subjective feelings in response to music. Conversely, patients with damage to the right somatosensory cortex were impaired in their self-rated feelings in response to music, but generated normal skin-conductance responses to music. Control tasks suggested that neither impairment was due to basic defects in hearing the music or in cognitively recognizing the intended emotion of the music. The findings provide evidence for a double dissociation between feeling emotions and autonomic responses to emotions, in response to music stimuli.
I thought the music clips they used to elicit emotional responses were interesting (click to enlarge):

By the way, here is another recent article by Salimpoor et al. on emotional arousal caused by music.


  1. I wonder if the music from movies they had seen evoked some subconscious memories associated with the films rather than with the music itself.

  2. There have also been some studies on emotion experience in people with spinal injuries who lacked somatic sensations... I don't know if they ever tried music, though.

  3. As shown in metastudies at "Mind, Brain and Education" by Kurt Fischer, Christina Hinton et al., tolerant environment is the key to extreme neuroplasticity. This solves the rapid evolution paradox of (non)raciality. There is evidence that evolution can go very fast, so the "evolutionary speed limit" that evolutionary psychologists invoke to declare humanity to be homogenous does not exist, and yet supposedly racial mental differences can be ruled out if the environment is taken into account. But since racist discrimination is a form of intolerance, this paradox is solved by the discovery that tolerant environments are the key to extreme neuroplasticity. See the article ´"Brain" on topic page "Psychology" at Pure science Wiki, the link is