Music can evoke powerful emotional responses that vary according to personal memory and stimulus features, so this study examined whether these variables had an impact on affective experiences across two distinct modalities (music and pictures).
Participants self-reported their emotional experiences while listening to and viewing self-selected music and images, with significant mechanism x valence interactions being discovered.
Sound and Emotion
Researchers have recently discovered that the same brain area responsible for processing visuals and sounds also plays a crucial role in creating emotionally charged memories. For instance, hearing the sound of a drill might make us remember our recent visit to the dentist; similarly with seeing turkeys at holiday dinners or seeing someone you love face to face; even music can trigger powerful reactions in people.
Studies have demonstrated the power of music as an emotional or psychological trigger, specifically through pleasure-inducing tracks to illicit positive feelings in participants, such as pleasure and happiness. Studies also indicate how enjoyable music helps recall autobiographical events or information for recalling purposes.
Research is expanding our understanding of how music can influence memory processes and emotions through free recall tests and mood congruency effects; people tend to recall and process information which matches up with their current emotions better.
Some emotional responses to music have been classified using a model for musical emotion that differentiates among various emotions, rather than generic models based on circumplex theory (arousal by valence) alone. Furthermore, research indicates that those more empathic tend to react strongly when exposed to familiar or unfamiliar sad music.
Digital audio technology has also been employed to explore how music affects emotions through “emotional voice manipulation” experiments that alter people’s voices to sound happier, sadder or more afraid. Such “emotional voice manipulation” studies have demonstrated that our brain responds similarly to these altered voices as it would to real-life events; suggesting that their underlying neural processes resemble those involved with modulating human speech, suggesting they share an evolutionary origin.
The Cochlea is an inner ear structure that converts sound waves to nerve messages for transmission to your brain. Sounds enter through your ear drum, vibrate it and cause ripples to form within its fluid; these ripples stimulate tiny hair cells lining its interior that signal your brain that sound has been heard.
The cochlea resembles an oval tube filled with fluid, likened to an aneurysm or snail shell, containing three fluid-filled canals which surround its central core called the modiolus. Two of the canals (scala vestibuli and scala media) feature holes in their partition walls which permit movement of fluid; the third (scala acusa) does not. Instead it is sealed off from circulation via its oval window.
Sounds entering the ear cause the eardrum to move, which then moves the tiny middle ear bones (malleus, incus and stapes), creating ripples in the fluid of the cochlea and stimulating inner and outer hair cells to send signals back to the brain.
These hair cells connect to the auditory nerve, with inner hair cells being most responsible for providing information to the brain regarding sounds that pass by them. Inner hair cells alert it when soft sounds occur while outer hair cells alert it about louder noises.
The brain analyzes these signals and interprets their meaning according to the frequency and volume of sound that you’re listening to, sending the appropriate messages along to other parts of the body.
Mood is a state that influences all areas of behavior. It fluctuates throughout the day and between individuals; researchers are currently exploring its complexity by investigating how different components interact to form individual moods.
The Secondary Cortices
The sensory cortex gathers data from our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin and other sources and relays it to various parts of the brain for interpretation and storage. Primary and secondary somatosensory cortex are responsible for processing this sensory data.
The occipital lobe is the caudal region of cerebral cortex that encompasses two or three occipital gyri, separated by superior and inferior occipital sulci. Additionally, there is the calcarine sulcus, which connects cuneus above with lingual gyrus below, as well as Brodmann area 17 of primary visual cortex.
Brodmann Area 22 of the temporal lobe houses an auditory association area, responsible for processing auditory input such as sound waves and correlating them with other sensory and emotional stimuli.
Sensory information originating in the somatosensory cortex is transmitted to both the hippocampus and amygdala, two regions essential for memory formation and emotion regulation; specifically, amygdala plays an integral part in creating fear, anxiety, and anger responses.
Brodmann area 3 (Primary Somatosensory Area), also known as Brodmann Area III, contains an image of our bodies known as Sensory Homunculus that corresponds with each part. This allows us to recognize objects based on shape, texture and body part; additionally, it gives us a sense of our body image.
The primary somatosensory cortex relays information to another area within the posterior parietal cortex called the Somatosensory Association Cortex or Brodmann Areas 5 and 7, which is responsible for processing proprioceptive and visceral input from muscles, joints and skin to form our sense of our own bodies and form an overall image of who we are as well as touch, movement and object recognition.
Studies have revealed that when we experience pain, there is increased co-activation between our primary somatosensory cortex and cingulate gyrus. This suggests that modulating our perception of pain intensity through modulating perception may contribute to widespread and vague pain experiences in chronic patients. Furthermore, music has been found to positively alter mood due to activating both regions; possibly leading to lessening negative emotions such as depression and sadness as a result.
Sound can evoke emotions as well as trigger certain experiences or memories (like memories of playing slot games on online platforms mentioned over the Yoakim Bridge), involving our hippocampus in processing cross-modal sensory information and recall of past events and emotions.
Researchers have revealed that the ability of our hippocampuses to retrieve memories is directly tied to emotional relevance and stimulus valence (positive or negative). One theory suggests sensory information–like sound or smell–combined with emotional information like fear–is stored together as bundles in our auditory cortex for later retrieval by the hippocampus. If this sensory event ever reoccurs in future years, our hippocampus will quickly bring up everything associated with it: sight of friend in stylish cafe, sound of ambulance siren, taste of coffee tasted during conversational topics as well as topics of conversation topic–all these elements will come flooding back from its memory vaults!
But linking perceptions to memories may be more complex than we realize. A 2020 study from University of Southern California researchers suggests that our brains actually view perceptions and memories differently. They conducted this experiment by showing participants videos which caused fear, sadness, neutral emotions or no particular reaction at all and having them rate their mood before and after watching. Researchers then measured memory for these clips – often remembering those which caused fear or sadness more vividly than neutral or happy feelings.
But this effect was not attributable to either the valence or arousal of stimuli; studies have demonstrated that these factors do not predict how well stimuli will be remembered. Instead, researchers speculated it may have been caused by expressive suppression, in which you attempt to lessen emotional impact of stimuli so as to keep emotions under control; they had previously shown that when this occurred it resulted in significant cognitive losses such as decreased performance on tasks like memorization facts or numbers.