Emotional responses to pleasant and unpleasant music correlate with activity in paralimbic brain regions

Nat Neurosci. 1999 Apr;2(4):382-7. doi: 10.1038/7299.


Neural correlates of the often-powerful emotional responses to music are poorly understood. Here we used positron emission tomography to examine cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes related to affective responses to music. Ten volunteers were scanned while listening to six versions of a novel musical passage varying systematically in degree of dissonance. Reciprocal CBF covariations were observed in several distinct paralimbic and neocortical regions as a function of dissonance and of perceived pleasantness/unpleasantness. The findings suggest that music may recruit neural mechanisms similar to those previously associated with pleasant/unpleasant emotional states, but different from those underlying other components of music perception, and other emotions such as fear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed