A coordinate-based meta-analysis of music-evoked emotions

Neuroimage. 2020 Dec:223:117350. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117350. Epub 2020 Sep 6.


Since the publication of the first neuroscience study investigating emotion with music about two decades ago, the number of functional neuroimaging studies published on this topic has increased each year. This research interest is in part due to the ubiquity of music across cultures, and to music's power to evoke a diverse range of intensely felt emotions. To support a better understanding of the brain correlates of music-evoked emotions this article reports a coordinate-based meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies (n = 47 studies with n = 944 subjects). The studies employed a range of diverse experimental approaches (e.g., using music to evoke joy, sadness, fear, tension, frissons, surprise, unpleasantness, or feelings of beauty). The results of an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) indicate large clusters in a range of structures, including amygdala, anterior hippocampus, auditory cortex, and numerous structures of the reward network (ventral and dorsal striatum, anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, secondary somatosensory cortex). The results underline the rewarding nature of music, the role of the auditory cortex as an emotional hub, and the role of the hippocampus in attachment-related emotions and social bonding.

Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; amygdala; auditory cortex; emotion; hippocampus; limbic system; music; reward system.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Music / psychology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuroimaging