The roles of superficial amygdala and auditory cortex in music-evoked fear and joy

Neuroimage. 2013 Nov 1;81:49-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 May 17.


This study investigates neural correlates of music-evoked fear and joy with fMRI. Studies on neural correlates of music-evoked fear are scant, and there are only a few studies on neural correlates of joy in general. Eighteen individuals listened to excerpts of fear-evoking, joy-evoking, as well as neutral music and rated their own emotional state in terms of valence, arousal, fear, and joy. Results show that BOLD signal intensity increased during joy, and decreased during fear (compared to the neutral condition) in bilateral auditory cortex (AC) and bilateral superficial amygdala (SF). In the right primary somatosensory cortex (area 3b) BOLD signals increased during exposure to fear-evoking music. While emotion-specific activity in AC increased with increasing duration of each trial, SF responded phasically in the beginning of the stimulus, and then SF activity declined. Psychophysiological Interaction (PPI) analysis revealed extensive emotion-specific functional connectivity of AC with insula, cingulate cortex, as well as with visual, and parietal attentional structures. These findings show that the auditory cortex functions as a central hub of an affective-attentional network that is more extensive than previously believed. PPI analyses also showed functional connectivity of SF with AC during the joy condition, taken to reflect that SF is sensitive to social signals with positive valence. During fear music, SF showed functional connectivity with visual cortex and area 7 of the superior parietal lobule, taken to reflect increased visual alertness and an involuntary shift of attention during the perception of auditory signals of danger.

Keywords: Auditory cortex; Emotion; Fear; Joy; Music; Superficial amygdala; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Young Adult