Ode to joy or sorrow?
Researchers study not only the processing by the brain of the “acoustic” component of music, but also the processes by which it affects people emotionally. In one of these works, it was shown that physical reactions to music (in the form of goosebumps, tears, laughter, etc.) occur in 80% of adults. According to a survey conducted in 1995 by Jaak Panksepp of the University of Bowling Green, 70% of several hundred respondents said that they enjoy music, “because it creates emotions and feelings.”
Until recently, the mechanisms of such reactions remained a mystery to scientists. However, a study of a patient suffering from bilateral damage to the temporal lobes, affecting the auditory cortex, prompted an answer to the question that tormented us. The patient has preserved normal intelligence and general memory, there are no difficulties with language and speech. But she will not recognize the music (be it old or previously well-known works or new ones just listened to). The girl is not able to distinguish between two melodies, no matter how different they are. Nevertheless, she has normal emotional reactions to the music of different genres, and her ability to identify emotions with the mood of a piece of music is absolutely adequate. We assumed that the temporal lobes of the brain are necessary for understanding the melody, but not for the occurrence of an appropriate emotional reaction, in the development of which both the subcortical structures and the frontal lobes of the cortex are involved.
In 2001, Anne Blood of McGill University tried to identify brain areas involved in the development of emotional responses to music. The study used weak emotional stimuli associated with people’s reactions to consonance and dissonance. The consonance consonances include such musical intervals or chords, which are characterized by a simple ratio of the frequencies of their constituent sounds. As an example, you can bring up to the first octave (frequency of about 260 Hz) and the salt of the same octave (frequency of about 390 Hz). The ratio of tones is 2: 3, which, when reproduced at the same time, produces a pleasing consonance. On the contrary, up to the first octave and the neighboring C sharp (frequency 277 Hz) give a complex frequency ratio of 8: 9, and, while simultaneously sounding, are perceived as an unpleasant chord.
How does it respond to harmonious and dissonant combinations of tones of the brain? His images obtained using positron emission tomography while listening to subjects’ consonances-consonances and dissonances, showed that various areas were involved in the development of emotional reactions. Consonance chords intensified the orbitofrontal cortex area (part of the brain’s reward system) of the right hemisphere, as well as part of the area located under the corpus callosum. Dissonance chords caused activation of the right parahippocampal gyrus. Thus, in the development of emotional experiences associated with the perception of music, two different systems of brain structures are involved. Scientists have discovered another mystery related to the perception of music. When they scanned the brains of musicians who were enjoying themselves while listening to melodies, they found that the sounds triggered a number of the same brain reward systems that are also activated by the influence of tasty food, sex and drug use.
The data obtained indicate that the perception of music has a biological nature and is mediated by a specific functional organization of the brain. It is absolutely clear to scientists that various aspects of the processing of musical information are associated with the activities of numerous brain structures, some of which ensure the perception of music.