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Cortex. 2011 Oct;47(9):1138-46. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.05.008. Epub 2011 May 17.

The development of aesthetic responses to music and their underlying neural and psychological mechanisms.

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Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.


In the field of psychology, the first studies in experimental aesthetics were conducted approximately 140 years ago. Since then, research has mainly concentrated on aesthetic responses to visual art. Both the aesthetic experience of music and, especially, its development have received rather limited attention. Moreover, until now, very little attention has been paid to the investigation of the aesthetic experience of music using neuroscientific methods. Aesthetic experiences are multidimensional and include inter alia sensory, perceptual, affective, and cognitive components. Aesthetic processes are usually experienced as pleasing and rewarding and are, thus, important and valuable experiences for many people. Because of their multidimensional nature, these processes employ several brain areas. In the present review, we examine important psychological and neural mechanisms that are believed to contribute to the development of aesthetic experiences of music. We also discuss relevant research findings. With the present review, we wish to provoke further discussion and possible future investigations as we consider the investigation of aesthetic experiences to be important both scientifically and with respect to potential clinical applications.

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