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Music & Emotion

January 25, 2011

Listening to music activates the reward centers of the brain.


Chopin on the brain …I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Music can move people to tears, but how it manipulates our emotions has puzzled scientists for years. To uncover what’s really going on, neuroscientist Heather Chapin, now at Stanford, and her colleagues played two versions of Chopin’s piano Etude in E Major, Opus 10, No. 3 to volunteers, and measured their emotional response. One version was an expressive interpretation of the piece, and the other one followed the written music to a T.

HEATHER CHAPIN (Stanford University):
The greater the tempo changes in the expressive performance, the more intense the emotional experience.

In addition, the musically experienced listeners had more activity in certain parts of the brain than less experienced listeners.

In areas that are related to emotion processing and also in reward-related areas, so it seems they got a greater emotional reward.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.