From emotion perception to emotion experience: emotions evoked by pictures and classical music

Int J Psychophysiol. 2006 Apr;60(1):34-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.04.007. Epub 2005 Jul 5.


Most previous neurophysiological studies evoked emotions by presenting visual stimuli. Models of the emotion circuits in the brain have for the most part ignored emotions arising from musical stimuli. To our knowledge, this is the first emotion brain study which examined the influence of visual and musical stimuli on brain processing. Highly arousing pictures of the International Affective Picture System and classical musical excerpts were chosen to evoke the three basic emotions of happiness, sadness and fear. The emotional stimuli modalities were presented for 70 s either alone or combined (congruent) in a counterbalanced and random order. Electroencephalogram (EEG) Alpha-Power-Density, which is inversely related to neural electrical activity, in 30 scalp electrodes from 24 right-handed healthy female subjects, was recorded. In addition, heart rate (HR), skin conductance responses (SCR), respiration, temperature and psychometrical ratings were collected. Results showed that the experienced quality of the presented emotions was most accurate in the combined conditions, intermediate in the picture conditions and lowest in the sound conditions. Furthermore, both the psychometrical ratings and the physiological involvement measurements (SCR, HR, Respiration) were significantly increased in the combined and sound conditions compared to the picture conditions. Finally, repeated measures ANOVA revealed the largest Alpha-Power-Density for the sound conditions, intermediate for the picture conditions, and lowest for the combined conditions, indicating the strongest activation in the combined conditions in a distributed emotion and arousal network comprising frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital neural structures. Summing up, these findings demonstrate that music can markedly enhance the emotional experience evoked by affective pictures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Respiration