“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
Music is a powerful tool for evoking emotional responses. Tears burst out uncontrolledly when “The Queen's Epicedium” (Henry Purcell and John Blow, 1695) is performed, whereas intense joy floods our heart when we hear “The Blue Danube” (Johann Strauss II, 1866). Indeed, behavioral studies have shown that music evokes various emotions, and can help patients feel less anxious and reduce postoperative pain. However, little is known about the neural basis that links music and emotion. In the present study, we addressed this question by exploring the neuroanatomical correlates of individuals' behavioral performance in music processing.
The amygdala, a core component in the neural circuits of emotional processing and emotional experiences, has attracted attention for its significance in processing music. Previous functional neuroimaging studies have demonstrated the amygdala's involvement in music processing. First, exposure to music scoring high on emotional valence (e.g., pleasant and unpleasant music) activates the amygdala. Specifically, this region of the brain is activated when participants experience a positive emotion after being exposed to pleasant music or when they experience a negative emotion after listening to unpleasant music. Second, in addition to responding to pleasant or unpleasant music, the amygdala may respond to the occurrence of fairly abstract musical features, such as unexpected chords (the processing of which is perceived as being less pleasant than the processing of expected chords).
In contrast, structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies relying on the measurement of cortical thickness and/or voxel-based morphometry have only focused on frontotemporal circuits as neuroanatomical correlates of music processing. While the role of the amygdala in music processing is largely ignored in structural MRI studies, there is abundant evidence showing that the anatomical structure of the amygdala is correlated with emotional processing. For example, amygdala gray matter volume (GMV) or density is correlated with magnitude of stress and anxiety in the normal population, and the change of amygdala volume is a neural signature of a variety of emotion-related disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and autism. Finally, lesions of the amygdala severely impair emotional processing, such as emotion recognition, emotion arousal, and emotion judgment. Country:Italy
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