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Cortex. 2013 Mar;49(3):702-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.01.013. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

The effect of music on corticospinal excitability is related to the perceived emotion: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study.

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Unità Operativa di Neurologia, Azienda Sanitaria di Firenze, Firenze, Italy.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and neuroimaging studies suggest a functional link between the emotion-related brain areas and the motor system. It is not well understood, however, whether the motor cortex activity is modulated by specific emotions experienced during music listening. In 23 healthy volunteers, we recorded the motor evoked potentials (MEP) following TMS to investigate the corticospinal excitability while subjects listened to music pieces evoking different emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, and displeasure), an emotionally neutral piece, and a control stimulus (musical scale). Quality and intensity of emotions were previously rated in an additional group of 30 healthy subjects. Fear-related music significantly increased the MEP size compared to the neutral piece and the control stimulus. This effect was not seen with music inducing other emotional experiences and was not related to changes in autonomic variables (respiration rate, heart rate). Current data indicate that also in a musical context, the excitability of the corticomotoneuronal system is related to the emotion expressed by the listened piece.

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