‘Beautiful but sad’ music can help people feel better

psychology-sad-music-enhances-mood-300x214Listening to sad music in adverse situations: How music selection strategies relate to self-regulatory goals, listening effects, and mood enhancement

Annemieke J.M. Van den Tol, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Keynes E-105, Canterbury, CT2 7NP, UK. Email: A.J.M.van-den-Tol@kent.ac.uk

Abstract

Adults’ (N = 220) reported motivations for listening to sad music after experiencing adverse negative circumstances were examined by exploring how their music selection strategies related to (a) their self-regulatory goals, and (b) reported effects of listening. The effects of music selection strategies, self-regulatory goals, and reported effects on the achievement of mood enhancement were also explored using a retrospective survey design. The findings indicate that music choice is linked to the individual’s identified self-regulatory goals for music listening and to expected effects. Additionally, the results show that if individuals had intended to achieve mood enhancement through music listening, this was often achieved by first experiencing cognitive reappraisal or distraction. The selection of music with perceived high aesthetic value was the only music selection strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement. Where respondents indicated that they chose music with the intention of triggering memories, this was negatively related to the self-regulatory goal of mood enhancement.

Source: neurosciencenews.com, Psychology of Music (SAGE)

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Play it again sam: brain correlates of emotional music recognition

play_it_sam_play_as_time_goes_byEckart Altenmüller1*Susann Siggel1Bahram Mohammadi2,3Amir Samii3 and Thomas F. Münte2
  • 1Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians’s Medicine, University of Music, Drama and Media, Hannover, Germany
  • 2Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
  • 3CNS Laboratory, International Neuroscience Institute, Hannover, Germany

Background: Music can elicit strong emotions and can be remembered in connection with these emotions even decades later. Yet, the brain correlates of episodic memory for highly emotional music compared with less emotional music have not been examined. We therefore used fMRI to investigate brain structures activated by emotional processing of short excerpts of film music successfully retrieved from episodic long-term memory.

Methods: Eighteen non-musicians volunteers were exposed to 60 structurally similar pieces of film music of 10 s length with high arousal ratings and either less positive or very positive valence ratings. Two similar sets of 30 pieces were created. Each of these was presented to half of the participants during the encoding session outside of the scanner, while all stimuli were used during the second recognition session inside the MRI-scanner. During fMRI each stimulation period (10 s) was followed by a 20 s resting period during which participants pressed either the “old” or the “new” button to indicate whether they had heard the piece before.

Results: Musical stimuli vs. silence activated the bilateral superior temporal gyrus, right insula, right middle frontal gyrus, bilateral medial frontal gyrus and the left anterior cerebellum. Old pieces led to activation in the left medial dorsal thalamus and left midbrain compared to new pieces. For recognized vs. not recognized old pieces a focused activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus and the left cerebellum was found. Positive pieces activated the left medial frontal gyrus, the left precuneus, the right superior frontal gyrus, the left posterior cingulate, the bilateral middle temporal gyrus, and the left thalamus compared to less positive pieces.

Conclusion: Specific brain networks related to memory retrieval and emotional processing of symphonic film music were identified. The results imply that the valence of a music piece is important for memory performance and is recognized very fast.

Received: 29 April 2013; Accepted: 27 January 2014;
Published online: 18 February 2014.

Edited by: Daniel J. Levitin, McGill University, Canada

Reviewed by: Stefan Koelsch, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and Psyche Loui, Wesleyan University, USA

Taken from open-access article published in Front. Psychol. distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). For full text of the article, please visit Frontiers.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Amelioration of psychiatric symptoms through exposure to music individually adapted to brain rhythm disorders – a randomised clinical trial on the basis of fundamental research

From  Cogn Neuropsychiatry January 24 2014 

Wolf MülleraGünter HaffelderbAngelika Schlotmannc,Andrea T.U. Schaefersd & Gertraud Teuchert-Noodt*d

This pilot study examined, whether long-term exposure of psychiatric patients to music that was individually adapted to brain rhythm disorders associated with psychoticism could act to ameliorate psychiatric symptoms. A total of 50 patients with various psychiatric diagnoses were randomised in a 1:1 ratio to listen to CDs containing either music adapted to brain rhythm anomalies associated with psychoticism – measured via a specific spectral analysis – or standard classical music. Participants were instructed to listen to the CDs over the next 18 months. Psychiatric symptoms in both groups were assessed at baseline and at 4, 8 and 18 months, using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). At 18 months, patients in the experimental group showed significantly decreased BSI scores compared to control patients. Intriguingly, this effect was not only seen for symptoms of psychoticism and paranoia but also for anxiety, phobic anxiety and somatisation. Exposure to the adapted music was effective in ameliorating psychotic, anxiety and phobic anxiety symptoms. Based on the theories of neuroplasticity and brain rhythms, it can be hypothesised that this intervention may be enhancing brain-rhythm synchronisation and plasticity in prefrontal-hippocampal circuits that are implicated in both psychosis/paranoia and anxiety/phobic anxiety.

Per gli Italiani:

Questo studio pilota esamina se l’esposizione a lungo termine di pazienti psichiatrici alla musica, adattata ai disordini del ritmo cerebrale associati con la psicosi, possa servire a migliorare i sintomi psichiatrici. Cinquanta pazienti con diagnosi psichiatriche di vario tipo sono stati assegnati in modo randomizzato a due gruppi e sottoposti a due condizioni sperimentali. Un gruppo ascoltava CD contenenti musica adattata alle anomalie cerebrali associate con la psicosi (misurate con analisi spettrale specifica), mentre l’altro ascoltava musica classica standard. Ai partecipanti è stato chiesto di ascoltare la musica per i successivi 18 mesi. I sintomi psichiatrici sono stati indagati in entrambi i gruppi prima dello studio e dopo 4, 8 e 18 mesi usando il test Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Dopo 18 mesi, i pazienti del gruppo sperimentale mostravano un punteggio BSI significativamente diminuito rispetto ai soggetti di controllo. Interessante osservare che questa diminuzione non è stata riscontrata solo per sintomi di psicosi e paranoia, ma anche per l’ansia, le fobie e la somatizzazione. Basandosi sulle teorie di neuroplasticità e dei ritmi cerebrali, gli Autori ipotizzano che questo intervento possa aumentare la sincronizzazione dei ritmi cerebrali e la plasticità dei circuiti prefrontali-ippocampali coinvolti sia nella paranoia, sia nella psicosi/paranoia, sia nell’ansia/fobia.

Music, Mind and Meaning Conference at the Peabody Institute – Day 2 Recap

1779146_10100787537465660_2115934_nMusic, Mind and Meaning Conference – Day 2

Friday commenced with the morning keynote delivered by Dr. Ani Patel, entitled Does instrumental musical training enhance the brain’s processing of speech? In Patel’s articulate and informative lecture, he began by drawing our attention to the following: “Music and language have important connections as cognitive and neural systems, and that has implications for theoretical debates about how the mind is organized – for evolutionary studies on the origins of these abilities, and practical issues about remediation of language disorders” (Patel, 2014). Though the parallels in music and language are less novel on account of the publication of his 2008 book Music, Language and the Brain, the implications of instrumental training lending to developments in language and speech are very much so. In conclusion, operating with his extended OPERA hypothesis, Patel emphasizes that regardless of the varying direction and debates these studies may undergo, “Comparative music and language research really does deepen our understanding of human communication.” (Patel, 2014).

Dr. Elizabeth Tolbert spoke next, providing an evolutionary perspective in Music, Meaning and Becoming Human. Approaching the co-evolution of music, meaning and social intelligence, Tolbert addressed music as a behavior, not object; of possessing a social ontology, and its implicational model as derived from social interaction, shared intentionality and social intelligence. Her overarching thesis states “the story of becoming human is the story of the development of a specifically human type of meaning rooted in social intelligence, and one that likely has its origins in proto-musical behavior.” (Tolbert, 2014).

IMG_9286Dr. Ian Cross’s lecture entitled Music, Participation and Interaction further expanded on the day’s existing idea of music not only as a “practice composed by the few and consumed by many,” but as the encompassment of interactive processes far beyond a role of abstract structures, symbolic realms or lofty themes. As uniquely flexible and socially cooperative creatures, humans are capable of utilizing music as not only a mode of communicating information and ideals, but at times as phatic organisms. Cross went on to explain with conviction that if this theory were more widely considered, the insinuation might result in music being given the proper chance to utilize it’s more pragmatic magic in resolving social uncertainties (and thus social anxiety), provide powerful effects on memory and social attitude, and “provide us with new perspectives on the investigation of music beyond the bounds of Western culture” (Cross, 2014).

The second keynote, Losing the Beat: A New Window on Human Rhythm was given Dr. Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal). Peretz has published over two hundred and fifty five scientific papers regarding everything from perception, emotion and memory to singing and dancing. In Losing the Beat, Peretz explained that a defining characteristic of human interaction with music is “the identity and ability to move to the beat.” Although this universal faculty is typically formed early in life, her recent research shows that some individuals suffer from the inability to synchronize with beats in music. This disorder is referred to as beat deafness, a new form of congenital amusia. In her presentation, Peretz conveyed a strong sensibility for the cause of studying musical disorders in regard to “reverse-engineering of the musical brain” (Peretz, 2014).

IMG_9311Later in the afternoon, Andrea Halpern took the floor to share her work on auditory imagery, and to describe her study examining the neural loci of imagined music. Halpern is a pioneer in her long-standing devotion to the field from early in its development. She has contributed fundamental work on memory and perception of musical structure, including studies on earworms and the persistence of musical memories), effects of timbre and tempo change, and perception of emotion in sounded and imagined music. In her presentation Auditory Imagery: Linking Internal and External Music, Halpern presented the argument that although internal and external music experiences are distinctive encounters, they share a number of important similarities, which both musicians and nonmusicians can exploit to enhance the musical experience.

Photo 1 – Diana Hereld

Photos 2, 3 – Scott Metcalfe

Note: I must include an apology for the delay in reporting on the conference this weekend. I simply found myself so wonderfully overwhelmed with information (but overwhelmed regardless) that I was unsure how to encapsulate the day’s culmination of so many brilliant minds in presentation of their most recent work. As a result, I’ve decided to report individually on each of them in the near future. A few other outlets have picked up specific coverage, and I will advise as those are released. I will also be sharing a summation of the conference’s concluding rountable featuring the speakers and performers, which was truly a thing to behold.

Music, Mind and Meaning Conference at the Peabody Institute– Day 1 Recap

IMG_9755 Music, Mind and Meaning Conference – Day 1

Apart from the seventy (yes, seventy) degree temperature shock going from Los Angeles to Baltimore, I had a wonderful evening at the opening of the Music, Mind and Meaning conference at the Peabody Institute. The evening began with rousing introductions all around, and I was wonderfully honored to finally meet some of my favorite scholars face to face.

At 7pm, Dr. David Huron took the floor for the keynote address. In his talk, “Emotions and Meanings in Music, he posed the question, “In what ways can music convey meaning?” Songs have lyrics, works have evocative titles, but most of music’s meaning comes from other sources including:

  • Cultural schemas
  • Learned expectations
  • Personal associations

In his over sixty minute presentation, Huron covered everything from how musical associations become universal cultural icons, to the psychoacoustics of intimacy (which contained brilliant perspectives I had never visualized), to an explicitly detailed account of how ethologists differentiate between signals versus cues, and what we can take from learning about hostile versus friendly behavior in animals to musical studies. Since my arrival, I’ve listened to one out of nine lectures, and am, at present, blown away. Let’s just say this: you know it’s good when you have world-class academics on either side murmuring in awe at what is being presented. I look very forward to recounting the full presentation when time permits.

Following Dr. Huron’s talk, a duo took the stage like I haven’t quite seen before. I’d venture it’s not uncommon, but when Grammy-nominated pianist and composer (and MacArthur genius fellowship recipient) Vijay Iyer improvises a single-song performance – for thirty-five minutes nonstop – one listens. Joined by Gary Thomas (Director of Jazz Studies, Peabody) on the saxophone followed by flute, the enigmatic chemistry that was created simply devoured the room like a thick trance. One of my favorite enigmas of the evening was simply glancing down the two rows of conference speakers to see who was bobbing side to side, or front to back; the eyes that were closed or engaged, or (my favorite) watching the woman who periodically plugged her ears as if to reimagine what she had just heard.

The evening closed with a reception lasting well past eleven in the Peabody library. Accompanied by a presentation of the exhibit from the personal collection of Eugene S. Flamm, the final talk included introducing some of the very oldest texts surrounding neurosurgery and the cradle of medicine known to exist. I look very forward to the continuance and development of the conference tomorrow morning.

Neurophysiological and behavioral responses to music therapy in vegetative and minimally conscious states

(O’Kelly J1,2, James L1, Palaniappan R3, Taborin J4, Fachner J5, Magee WL6)

1 Research Department, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, London, UK; 2 Dept. of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark; 3 Faculty of Science and Engineering, Wolverhampton University, Wolverhampton, UK; 4 Dept. of Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK; 5 Depat. of Music and Performing Arts, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK; 6 Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Assessment of awareness for those with disorders of consciousness is a challenging undertaking, due to the complex presentation of the population. Debate surrounds whether behavioral assessments provide greatest accuracy in diagnosis compared to neuro-imaging methods, and despite developments in both, misdiagnosis rates remain high. Music therapy may be effective in the assessment and rehabilitation with this population due to effects of musical stimuli on arousal, attention, and emotion, irrespective of verbal or motor deficits. However, an evidence base is lacking as to which procedures are most effective. To address this, a neurophysiological and behavioral study was undertaken comparing electroencephalogram (EEG), heart rate variability, respiration, and behavioral responses of 20 healthy subjects with 21 individuals in vegetative or minimally conscious states (VS or MCS). Subjects were presented with live preferred music and improvised music entrained to respiration (procedures typically used in music therapy), recordings of disliked music, white noise, and silence. ANOVA tests indicated a range of significant responses (p = 0.05) across healthy subjects corresponding to arousal and attention in response to preferred music including concurrent increases in respiration rate with globally enhanced EEG power spectra responses (p = 0.05-0.0001) across frequency bandwidths. Whilst physiological responses were heterogeneous across patient cohorts, significant post hoc EEG amplitude increases for stimuli associated with preferred music were found for frontal midline theta in six VS and four MCS subjects, and frontal alpha in three VS and four MCS subjects (p = 0.05-0.0001). Furthermore, behavioral data showed a significantly increased blink rate for preferred music (p = 0.029) within the VS cohort. Two VS cases are presented with concurrent changes (p = 0.05) across measures indicative of discriminatory responses to both music therapy procedures. A third MCS case study is presented highlighting how more sensitive selective attention may distinguish MCS from VS. The findings suggest that further investigation is warranted to explore the use of music therapy for prognostic indicators, and its potential to support neuroplasticity in rehabilitation programs.

For our Italian friends:

La determinazione dello stato di consapevolezza nei pazienti che soffrono di riduzione della coscienza è un compito estremamente difficile, dovuta all’eterogeneità dei casi. Esiste un dibattito rispetto a quale indagine fornisca la maggiore accuratezza della diagnosi: indagine comportamentale rispetto ai metodi di neuroimmagine. Nonostante i notevoli passi avanti fatti in entrambi i campi, gli errori di diagnosi restano piuttosto alti. La musicoterapia può essere efficace nell’indagine e nella riabilitazione di queste persone grazie all’effetto della musica su stato di vigilanza, attenzione ed emozioni, indipendentemente dai deficit motori e verbali del paziente. In ogni caso, non esistono studi basati sull’evidenza che indichino quale dei due metodi sia più efficace. Per questo gli Autori propongono uno studio neurofisiologico e comportamentale che compara l’EEG, la variabilità del battito cardiaco, la respirazione e le risposte comportamentali di 20 individui sani con 21 pazienti in stato vegetativo o di minima coscienza (VS o MCS). Ai soggetti è stata presentata una selezione della musica preferita e di musica improvvisata adeguata al ritmo respiratorio (una proceduta tipica della musicoterapia), registrazioni di musica sgradita, rumore bianco e silenzio. L’analisi ANOVA indica un range di risposte rilevanti (p=0.05) tra i volontari sani corrispondente a un incremento dell’attenzione in risposta alla musica preferita, che include l’aumento concomitante del ritmo respiratorio e della potenza dello spettro EEG (p=0.05-0.0001) in tutte le bande di frequenza. Mentre le risposte fisiologiche erano eterogenee nella coorte dei pazienti, si notava un miglioramento significativo post hoc nell’ampiezza dell’EEG in risposta alla musica preferita, evidente nel theta della linea frontale mediana in sei VS, e quattro MCS e della banda alfa frontale in tre VS e quattro MCS (p=0.05-0.0001). Inoltre, i dati comportamentali mostravano un significativo incremento nel ritmo di battito delle ciglia in presenza della musica preferita (p=0.029) nei pazienti VS. Due casi in VS hanno evidenziato cambiamenti correlati fra le due misure che dimostrano una reattività a entrambi i tipi di musicoterapia (p=0.05). Un terzo caso MCS è stato illustrato per sottolineare come l’attenzione selettiva possa distinguere gli MCS dai VS. Questi dati suggeriscono che sia auspicabile un approfondimento degli studi per esplorare l’uso della musicoterapia come indicatore prognostico, e valutarne l’uso come supporto per la neuroplasticità in riabilitazione.

(Open access article, creative commons, December 2013).  

Music, Mind, Meaning Conference 2014 at the Peabody Institute of Music

peabody library (January 30-31, Baltimore, MD) The Music, Mind and Meaning Conference will bring together scientists from the field of music cognition  and renowned musicians for a two-day event to explore the relationships between music and science at the Peabody Institute of Music. The events will include presentations from leading scientists and a special musical performance by the Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, Chair of Jazz Studies at Peabody. Keynote speakers will be Drs. David Huron, Aniruddh Patel, and Isabelle Peretz, three remarkable scientists who have led groundbreaking studies of how and why people have engaged in musical behaviors throughout human history. Conference participants will include scientists, clinicians, musicians, students and interested members of the public. Presentations will explore the idea of musical meaning by examining issues of expectation, creativity, evolution, culture, language, emotion and memory from the viewpoint of cognitive psychology, musicology and auditory neuroscience. The conference is generously supported by a conference grant from the Brain Sciences Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For more information visit http://www.mmmbaltimore2014.org/.

I will be attending and covering this conference, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter @pathwaysinmusic and look for coverage here directly following. A special thanks to Mr. Cooper McClain for making this trip possible.