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Review
. 2013 Jun 18;110 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):10430-7.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1301228110. Epub 2013 Jun 10.

From Perception to Pleasure: Music and Its Neural Substrates

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Free PMC article
Review

From Perception to Pleasure: Music and Its Neural Substrates

Robert J Zatorre et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Music has existed in human societies since prehistory, perhaps because it allows expression and regulation of emotion and evokes pleasure. In this review, we present findings from cognitive neuroscience that bear on the question of how we get from perception of sound patterns to pleasurable responses. First, we identify some of the auditory cortical circuits that are responsible for encoding and storing tonal patterns and discuss evidence that cortical loops between auditory and frontal cortices are important for maintaining musical information in working memory and for the recognition of structural regularities in musical patterns, which then lead to expectancies. Second, we review evidence concerning the mesolimbic striatal system and its involvement in reward, motivation, and pleasure in other domains. Recent data indicate that this dopaminergic system mediates pleasure associated with music; specifically, reward value for music can be coded by activity levels in the nucleus accumbens, whose functional connectivity with auditory and frontal areas increases as a function of increasing musical reward. We propose that pleasure in music arises from interactions between cortical loops that enable predictions and expectancies to emerge from sound patterns and subcortical systems responsible for reward and valuation.

Keywords: auditory cortex; cognition; functional imaging.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Ancient bone flute. The flute, made from the radius bone of a vulture, has five finger holes and a notch at the end where it was to be blown; fine lines are precisely incised near the finger holes, probably reflecting measurements used to indicate where the finger holes were to be carved. Radiocarbon dating indicates it comes from the Upper Paleolithic period, more than 35,000 y ago. Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers, ref. , copyright 2009.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Schematic of putative functional pathways for auditory information processing in the human brain. Pathways originating in core auditory areas project outward in a parallel but hierarchical fashion toward belt and parabelt cortices (colored areas). Subsequently, several distinct bidirectional functional streams may be identified: Ventrally, processing streams progress toward targets in superior and inferior temporal sulcus and gyrus, eventually terminating in the inferior frontal cortex. Dorsally, projections lead toward distinct targets in parietal, premotor, and dorsolateral frontal cortices. Adapted from ref. .
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Neural correlates of processing highly rewarding music. (A) Spatial conjunction analysis between [11C]raclopride positron emission tomography and fMRI while listeners heard their selected pleasurable music revealed increased hemodynamic activity in the ventral striatum (VS) during peak emotional moments (marked by “chills”), and the dorsal striatum (DS) preceding chills, in the same regions that showed dopamine release. Adapted from ref. . (B) fMRI scanning showing that the best predictor of reward value of new music (as marked by monetary bids in an auction paradigm) was activity in the striatum, particularly the NAcc; the NAcc also showed increased functional connectivity with the superior temporal gyri (STG) and the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) as musical stimuli gained reward value. Adapted from ref. .

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