22 research outputs found

    Music and literature: are there shared empathy and predictive mechanisms underlying their affective impact?

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    It has been suggested that music and language had a shared evolutionary precursor before becoming mainly responsible for the communication of emotive and referential meaning respectively. However, emphasis on potential differences between music and language may discourage a consideration of the commonalities that music and literature share. Indeed, one possibility is that common mechanisms underlie their affective impact, and the current paper carefully reviews relevant neuroscientific findings to examine such a prospect. First and foremost, it will be demonstrated that considerable evidence of a common role of empathy and predictive processes now exists for the two domains. However, it will also be noted that an important open question remains: namely, whether the mechanisms underlying the subjective experience of uncertainty differ between the two domains with respect to recruitment of phylogenetically ancient emotion areas. It will be concluded that a comparative approach may not only help to reveal general mechanisms underlying our responses to music and literature, but may also help us better understand any idiosyncrasies in their capacity for affective impact

    Studies into the cognitive and neural basis of congenital amusia

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    The majority of humans develop a facility with music effortlessly and in the absence of explicit training. However some individuals show a distinct lack of musical ability despite seeming to have otherwise normal cognitive functioning. Based on initial studies into congenital amusia, poor pitch discrimination ability and poor pitch memory have been ascribed a central role in the condition. However, the extent to which these play a causal role in the more global difficulties associated with the disorder remains unclear. Furthermore, with the disorder increasingly being conceived of as one of awareness rather than perception, an integrated account of the disorder in which the relative importance of observed impairments are clearly delineated is becoming essential. Critically, such an account would describe congenital amusia in those terms that are commonly used to account for how musical listening ability typically develops. Further, it would be based on the results of investigations using ecologically valid stimuli and methods. In a series of four experiments, this thesis seeks to contribute towards such an account. Firstly, using behavioural methods, the state of statistical learning processes known to be necessary for the internalisation of musical regularities in typical individuals is examined. Secondly, the thesis examines the state of musical anticipatory mechanisms, a corollary of such learning, which has been shown to play a critical role in the ability to recognize and discriminate melodies. Next, using electroencephalography recordings, the neural basis of abnormal melodic pitch processing in congenital amusia is studied, while in the final chapter, a social science technique is used to investigate the extent to which amusics show normal appreciation of music in everyday life. By combining findings from current and previous studies, this thesis will contribute towards a comprehensive description of congenital amusia based on findings from a number of different levels of inquiry

    Time reproduction during high and low attentional tasks in Alzheimer’s Disease “A watched kettle never boils”

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    A wealth of empirical evidence suggests that directing attention to temporal processing increases perceived duration, whereas drawing attention away from it has the opposite effect. Our work investigates this phenomenon by comparing perceived duration during a high attentional and a low attentional task in Alzheimer‟s Disease (AD) patients since these participants tend to show attentional deficits. In the high attentional task, AD patients and older adults were asked to perform the interference condition of the Stroop test for 15s while in the low attentional task, they had to fixate on a cross for the same length of time. In both conditions, participants were not aware they would be questioned about timing until the end of the task when they had to reproduce the duration of the previously-viewed stimulus. AD patients under-reproduced the duration of previously-exposed stimulus in the high attentional relative to the low attentional task, and the same pattern was observed in older adults. Due to their attentional deficits, AD patients might be overwhelmed by the demand of the high attentional task, leaving very few, if any, attentional resources for temporal processing

    Autobiographical recall triggers visual exploration

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    Autobiographical recall is thought to rely on the ability to generate a visual image of the remembered event. Neuropsychological studies suggest a relationship between deterioration in visual mental imagery and autobiographical distortions, while neuroimaging data similarly implicate visual brain areas in autobiographical recall. However, neither whether autobiographical retrieval is associated with visual exploration, or not. Our paper aimed to provide such evidence one way or the other. Using an eye tracking system, we recorded eye movements of 40 participants during autobiographical recall and during a control condition in which participants had to count aloud. In both conditions, the participants had to look at a blank screen while their gaze location was recorded by the eye-tracker. Autobiographical recall triggered a lower number of fixations and reduced their duration. In contrast, the number, duration, and amplitude of saccades increased compared to the control condition. Our data suggest that autobiographical recall is characterized by visual processing

    Locus of emotion influences psychophysiological reactions to music

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    It is now widely accepted that the perception of emotional expression in music can be vastly different from the feelings evoked by it. However, less understood is how the locus of emotion affects the experience of music, that is how the act of perceiving the emotion in music compares with the act of assessing the emotion induced in the listener by the music. In the current study, we compared these two emotion loci based on the psychophysiological response of 40 participants listening to 32 musical excerpts taken from movie soundtracks. Facial electromyography, skin conductance, respiration and heart rate were continuously measured while participants were required to assess either the emotion expressed by, or the emotion they felt in response to the music. Using linear mixed effects models, we found a higher mean response in psychophysiological measures for the “perceived” than the “felt” task. This result suggested that the focus on one’s self distracts from the music, leading to weaker bodily reactions during the “felt” task. In contrast, paying attention to the expression of the music and consequently to changes in timbre, loudness and harmonic progression enhances bodily reactions. This study has methodological implications for emotion induction research using psychophysiology and the conceptualization of emotion loci. Firstly, different tasks can elicit different psychophysiological responses to the same stimulus and secondly, both tasks elicit bodily responses to music. The latter finding questions the possibility of a listener taking on a purely cognitive mode when evaluating emotion expression

    Accounting for expressions of curiosity and enjoyment during music listening

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    Music induces surprise and uncertainty in listeners as it unfolds. However, it remains unexamined whether it is also able to induce waxing and waning feelings of curiosity, how such feelings relate to the enjoyment of music, and what role music’s information theoretic structure and listeners’ expertise and trait curiosity may play. Here, we characterized melodies using a computational model and required participants to report on their experience of them as they unfolded. In a first experiment, listeners indicated, when cued, how curious they were as to how the melodies would continue. In a second, a further set of participants indicated, when cued, how much they were enjoying the melodies, before completing a multidimensional assessment of curiosity. We found a positive association between curiosity and note information content (IC, surprisingness) that was more pronounced in low entropy (highly predictable) contexts. However, we found that curiosity ratings of listeners with no music-theory training (and little/ no experience playing music) were less influenced by musical structure and more driven by judgments of stimulus valence. Finally, we showed that two subgroups of curious people, revealed using cluster analyses, did not differ in how well their curiosity ratings were explained by IC and entropy, but differed in the extent to which their unfolding enjoyment of music changed as a function of IC. Taken together, our results demonstrate that musical structure interacts with musical background to influence the emergence of felt curiosity during music listening, while trait curiosity further influences how listening enjoyment emerges
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