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Published April 2009 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

A neuroanatomical dissociation for emotion induced by music


Does feeling an emotion require changes in autonomic responses, as William James proposed? Can feelings and autonomic responses be dissociated? Findings from cognitive neuroscience have identified brain structures that subserve feelings and autonomic response, including those induced by emotional music. In the study reported here, we explored whether feelings and autonomic responses can be dissociated by using music, a stimulus that has a strong capacity to induce emotional experiences. We tested two brain regions predicted to be differentially involved in autonomic responsivity (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and feeling (the right somatosensory cortex). Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were impaired in their ability to generate skin-conductance responses to music, but generated normal judgments of their subjective feelings in response to music. Conversely, patients with damage to the right somatosensory cortex were impaired in their self-rated feelings in response to music, but generated normal skin-conductance responses to music. Control tasks suggested that neither impairment was due to basic defects in hearing the music or in cognitively recognizing the intended emotion of the music. The findings provide evidence for a double dissociation between feeling emotions and autonomic responses to emotions, in response to music stimuli.

Additional Information

© 2008 Elsevier B.V. Received 25 August 2007; accepted 17 March 2008. Available online 13 September 2008. This study was completed by the first author under the supervision of the other authors in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the PhD degree at the University of Iowa. The study was supported by NIDA R01 DA022549 and NINDS P01 NS19632.

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Accepted Version - nihms73682.pdf


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