Editorial: Music and the Functions of the Brain: Arousal, Emotions, and Pleasure

Frontiers in Psychology 9 (2018)
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Music impinges upon the body and the brain and has inductive power, relying on both innate dispositions and acquired mechanisms for coping with the sounds. This process is partly autonomous and partly deliberate, but multiple interrelations between several levels of processing can be shown. There is, further, a tradition in neuroscience that divides the organization of the brain into lower and higher functions. The latter have received a lot of attention in music and brain studies during the last decades. Recent developments in neuroimaging techniques, however, have broadened the field by encompassing the study of both cortical and subcortical processing of the sounds. Much is still to be investigated but some major observations seem already to emerge. The domain of music and emotions is a typical example with a major focus on the pleasure that can be derived from listening to music. Pleasure, however, is not the only emotion that music can induce and the mechanisms behind its elicitation are far from understood. There are also mechanisms related to arousal and activation that are both less differentiated and at the same time more complex than the assumed mechanisms triggering basic emotions. It is tempting, therefore, to bring together contributions from neuroscience studies with a view to cover the possible range of answers to the question of what pleasurable or mood-modifying effects music can have on human beings in real-time listening situations.

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