[Paleopsych] NYT: Music and Emotion

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Music and Emotion


    Music and Emotion

    Q. Why is it that when I listen to particularly beautiful or moving
    music I get goose bumps and even cry?

    A. It is well known that areas of the brain that recognize and process
    music are linked with areas that handle emotions, and scientists are
    gradually mapping these areas in greater detail with brain-imaging

    Last year, a study by English researchers at the University of
    Newcastle, published in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and
    Psychiatry, drew important insights from a single case, a 52-year-old
    radio announcer who lost his emotional response to music after a

    He was still able to recognize music that had given him particular
    pleasure, by Rachmaninoff, but he no longer experienced the intense
    emotional states that used to come from listening to it.

    Ordinarily, the researchers said, a stroke that causes loss of
    emotional response is accompanied by a loss of musical perception,
    called amusia.

    In this patient's case, however, they were able to separate musical
    perception from the emotional response and thus to identify a
    particular area of damage, called the left insula, as being involved
    in the emotional processing of music.

    It is part of a widely distributed brain network recruited by other
    powerful emotional stimuli, producing arousal of the autonomic nervous
    system and leading to various physiological reactions.


    Readers are invited to submit questions by mail to Question, Science
    Times, The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, N.Y.
    10036-3959, or by e-mail to question at nytimes.com.

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