Metabolic and electric brain patterns during pleasant and unpleasant emotions induced by music masterpieces

Int J Psychophysiol. 2007 Jul;65(1):69-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2007.03.004. Epub 2007 Mar 14.


Brain correlates comparing pleasant and unpleasant states induced by three dissimilar masterpiece excerpts were obtained. Related emotional reactions to the music were studied using Principal Component Analysis of validated reports, fMRI, and EEG coherent activity. A piano selection by Bach and a symphonic passage from Mahler widely differing in musical features were used as pleasing pieces. A segment by Prodromidès was used as an unpleasing stimulus. Ten consecutive 30 s segments of each piece alternating with random static noise were played to 19 non-musician volunteers for a total of 30 min of auditory stimulation. Both brain approaches identified a left cortical network involved with pleasant feelings (Bach and Mahler vs. Prodromidès) including the left primary auditory area, posterior temporal, inferior parietal and prefrontal regions. While the primary auditory zone may provide an early affective quality, left cognitive areas may contribute to pleasant feelings when melodic sequences follow expected rules. In contrast, unpleasant emotions (Prodromidès vs. Bach and Mahler) involved the activation of the right frontopolar and paralimbic areas. Left activation with pleasant and right with unpleasant musical feelings is consistent with right supremacy in novel situations and left in predictable processes. When all musical excerpts were jointly compared to noise, in addition to bilateral auditory activation, the left temporal pole, inferior frontal gyrus, and frontopolar area were activated suggesting that cognitive and language processes were recruited in general responses to music. Sensory and cognitive integration seems required for musical emotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Noise
  • Principal Component Analysis