The role of the extended MNS in emotional and nonemotional judgments of human song

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2015 Mar;15(1):32-44. doi: 10.3758/s13415-014-0311-x.


In the present study, we examined the involvement of the extended mirror neuron system (MNS)-specifically, areas that have a strong functional connection to the core system itself-during emotional and nonemotional judgments about human song. We presented participants with audiovisual recordings of sung melodic intervals (two-tone sequences) and manipulated emotion and pitch judgments while keeping the stimuli identical. Mu event-related desynchronization (ERD) was measured as an index of MNS activity, and a source localization procedure was performed on the data to isolate the brain sources contributing to this ERD. We found that emotional judgments of human song led to greater amounts of ERD than did pitch distance judgments (nonemotional), as well as control judgments related to the singer's hair, or pitch distance judgments about a synthetic tone sequence. Our findings support and expand recent research suggesting that the extended MNS is involved to a greater extent during emotional than during nonemotional perception of human action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Male
  • Mirror Neurons / physiology*
  • Music / psychology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult