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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) distinguishes valence and intensity of musical emotions

Louis A Schmidt and Laurel J Trainor (2001)

Frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) distinguishes valence and intensity of musical emotions

Cognition and Emotion, 15(4):487-500.

Using recent regional brain activation/emotion models as a theoretical framework, we examined whether the pattern of regional EEG activity distinguished emotions induced by musical excerpts which were known to vary in affective valence (i.e., positive vs. negative) and intensity (i.e., intense vs. calm) in a group of undergraduates. We found that the pattern of asymmetrical frontal EEG activity distinguished valence of the musical excerpts. Subjects exhibited greater relative left frontal EEG activity to joy and happy musical excerpts and greater relative right frontal EEG activity to fear and sad musical excerpts. We also found that, although the pattern of frontal EEG asymmetry did not distinguish the intensity of the emotions, the pattern of overall frontal EEG activity did, with the amount of frontal activity decreasing from fear to joy to happy to sad excerpts. These data appear to be the first to distinguish valence and intensity of musical emotions on frontal electrocortical measures.

emotion, EEG, music