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Laurel J Trainor and Robert J Zatorre (2015)

The Neurobiology of Musical Expectations from Perception to Emotion

In: The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, ed. by Susan Hallam, Ian Cross, Michael Thaut. Oxford Handbooks, chap. 18, pp. 285-306.

We explore how musical structure sets up expectations, and how their realization or violation influence cognitive and emotional experience. We review mismatch negativity EEG studies showing that musical pitch, melodic, and harmonic structure generate expectations in the brain in the context of music, arguing that such expectation processes are fundamental as they emerge very early in infancy. Expectations are seen both for when events occur and for what event will occur. We show that, expectations for musical rhythms involve interactions between auditory and motor systems, suggesting that this interaction explains why musical rhythms prompt us to move to the beat. Finally, we review evidence from fMRI studies that musical expectations can lead to emotional responses, reflecting functional connections between sensory processing and reward systems in the brain. Thus, expectation processes permeate all aspects of brain processes, and their engagement leads to our perceptual, cognitive and emotional reactions to music.

emotion, expectation formation, perception

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