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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Sep;68:96-110. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 14.

The sound of emotions-Towards a unifying neural network perspective of affective sound processing.

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Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; Center for Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP), University of Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands; Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.


Affective sounds are an integral part of the natural and social environment that shape and influence behavior across a multitude of species. In human primates, these affective sounds span a repertoire of environmental and human sounds when we vocalize or produce music. In terms of neural processing, cortical and subcortical brain areas constitute a distributed network that supports our listening experience to these affective sounds. Taking an exhaustive cross-domain view, we accordingly suggest a common neural network that facilitates the decoding of the emotional meaning from a wide source of sounds rather than a traditional view that postulates distinct neural systems for specific affective sound types. This new integrative neural network view unifies the decoding of affective valence in sounds, and ascribes differential as well as complementary functional roles to specific nodes within a common neural network. It also highlights the importance of an extended brain network beyond the central limbic and auditory brain systems engaged in the processing of affective sounds.


Affect; Auditory cortex; Basal ganglia; Cerebellum; Limbic system; Music; Sound; Voice

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