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Laurel J Trainor and Louis A Schmidt (2003)

Processing Emotions Induced by Music

In: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music, ed. by Isabelle Peretz and Robert J. Zatorre. Oxford University Press, chap. 20, pp. 310-324.

Can music induce emotions directly and, if so, are these emotions experienced similarly to emotions arising in other contexts? This chapter analyzes these questions from the perspective of neuroscience. Despite the fact that music does not appear to have an obvious survival value for modern adults, research indicates that listening to music does activate autonomic, subcortical, and cortical systems in a manner similar to other emotional stimuli. It is proposed that music may be so intimately connected with emotional systems because caregivers use music to communicate emotionally with their infants before they are able to understand language. In particular, it examines whether music engages the autonomic nervous system, sub-cortical emotion networks, and cortical areas involved in the emotional processing of other types of stimuli. It also investigates whether emotional reactions to music are simply cultural conventions by asking whether and how infants process musical emotions.