Amygdala activity can be modulated by unexpected chord functions during music listening

Neuroreport. 2008 Dec 3;19(18):1815-9. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32831a8722.


Numerous earlier studies have investigated the cognitive processing of musical syntax with regular and irregular chord sequences. However, irregular sequences may also be perceived as unexpected, and therefore have a different emotional valence than regular sequences. We provide behavioral data showing that irregular chord functions presented in chord sequence paradigms are perceived as less pleasant than regular sequences. A reanalysis of functional MRI data showed increased blood oxygen level-dependent signal changes bilaterally in the amygdala in response to music-syntactically irregular (compared with regular) chord functions. The combined data indicate that music-syntactically irregular events elicit brain activity related to emotional processes, and that, in addition to intensely pleasurable music or highly unpleasant music, single chord functions can also modulate amygdala activity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult