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Impaired recognition of scary music following unilateral temporal lobe excision

Nathalie Gosselin, Isabelle Peretz, Marion Noulhiane, Dominique Hasboun, Christine Beckett, Michel Baulac, Séverine Samson
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awh420 628-640 First published online: 7 February 2005


Music constitutes an ideal means to create a sense of suspense in films. However, there has been minimal investigation into the underlying cerebral organization for perceiving danger created by music. In comparison, the amygdala's role in recognition of fear in non-musical contexts has been well established. The present study sought to fill this gap in exploring how patients with amygdala resection recognize emotional expression in music. To this aim, we tested 16 patients with left (LTR; n = 8) or right (RTR; n = 8) medial temporal resection (including amygdala) for the relief of medically intractable seizures and 16 matched controls in an emotion recognition task involving instrumental music. The musical selections were purposely created to induce fear, peacefulness, happiness and sadness. Participants were asked to rate to what extent each musical passage expressed these four emotions on 10-point scales. In order to check for the presence of a perceptual problem, the same musical selections were presented to the participants in an error detection task. None of the patients was found to perform below controls in the perceptual task. In contrast, both LTR and RTR patients were found to be impaired in the recognition of scary music. Recognition of happy and sad music was normal. These findings suggest that the anteromedial temporal lobe (including the amygdala) plays a role in the recognition of danger in a musical context.

  • fear
  • music
  • amygdala
  • emotions
  • epilepsy
  • LTR = left temporal resection
  • RTR = right temporal resection
  • NC = normal controls
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