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Neurocase. 2009 Jun;15(3):248-59. doi: 10.1080/13554790802632934.

Pleasurable emotional response to music: a case of neurodegenerative generalized auditory agnosia.

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Department of Neurology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Regenstrief Health Center 6th Floor, 1050 Wishard Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202-2859, USA.


Recent functional neuroimaging studies implicate the network of mesolimbic structures known to be active in reward processing as the neural substrate of pleasure associated with listening to music. Psychoacoustic and lesion studies suggest that there is a widely distributed cortical network involved in processing discreet musical variables. Here we present the case of a young man with auditory agnosia as the consequence of cortical neurodegeneration who continues to experience pleasure when exposed to music. In a series of musical tasks, the subject was unable to accurately identify any of the perceptual components of music beyond simple pitch discrimination, including musical variables known to impact the perception of affect. The subject subsequently misidentified the musical character of personally familiar tunes presented experimentally, but continued to report that the activity of 'listening' to specific musical genres was an emotionally rewarding experience. The implications of this case for the evolving understanding of music perception, music misperception, music memory, and music-associated emotion are discussed.

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