Passive music listening spontaneously engages limbic and paralimbic systems

Neuroreport. 2004 Sep 15;15(13):2033-7. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200409150-00008.


In this PET study, non-musicians passively listened to unfamiliar instrumental music revealed afterward to elicit strongly pleasant feelings. Activations were observed in the subcallosal cingulate gyrus, prefrontal anterior cingulate, retrosplenial cortex, hippocampus, anterior insula, and nucleus accumbens. This is the first observation of spontaneous responses in such limbic and paralimbic areas during passive listening to unfamiliar although liked music. Activations were also seen in primary auditory, secondary auditory, and temporal polar areas known to respond to music. Our findings complement neuroimaging studies of aesthetic responses to music that have used stimuli selected by subjects or designed by experimenters. The observed pattern of activity is discussed in terms of a model synthesizing emotional and cognitive responses to music.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*