People can experience different emotions when listening to music. A growing number of studies have investigated the brain structures and neural connectivities associated with perceived emotions. However, very little is known about the effect of an explicit act of judgment on the neural processing of emotionally-valenced music. In this study, we adopted the novel consensus clustering paradigm, called binarisation of consensus partition matrices (Bi-CoPaM), to study whether and how the conscious aesthetic evaluation of the music would modulate brain connectivity networks related to emotion and reward processing. Participants listened to music under three conditions - one involving a non-evaluative judgment, one involving an explicit evaluative aesthetic judgment, and one involving no judgment at all (passive listening only). During non-evaluative attentive listening we obtained auditory-limbic connectivity whereas when participants were asked to decide explicitly whether they liked or disliked the music excerpt, only two clusters of intercommunicating brain regions were found: one including areas related to auditory processing and action observation, and the other comprising higher-order structures involved with visual processing. Results indicate that explicit evaluative judgment has an impact on the neural auditory-limbic connectivity during affective processing of music.
Keywords: consensus clustering; fMRI; functional connectivity; intentionality; music emotions.