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Neural Correlates of Music Listening: Does the Music Matter?

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The last decades have seen a proliferation of music and brain studies, with a major focus on plastic changes as the outcome of continuous and prolonged engagement with music. Thanks to the advent of neuroaesthetics, research on music cognition has broadened its scope by considering the multifarious phenomenon of listening in all its forms, including incidental listening up to the skillful attentive listening of experts, and all its possible effects. These latter range from objective and sensorial effects directly linked to the acoustic features of the music to the subjectively affective and even transformational effects for the listener. Of special importance is the finding that neural activity in the reward circuit of the brain is a key component of a conscious listening experience. We propose that the connection between music and the reward system makes music listening a gate towards not only hedonia but also eudaimonia, namely a life well lived, full of meaning that aims at realizing one’s own “daimon” or true nature. It is argued, further, that music listening, even when conceptualized in this aesthetic and eudaimonic framework, remains a learnable skill that changes the way brain structures respond to sounds and how they interact with each other.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1553
JournalBrain sciences
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

    Research areas

  • Allostatic load, Arousal, Chills and thrills, Eudaimonic experience, Hedonic pleasure, Homeostatic regulation, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, Musical-aesthetic experience, Neuroaesthetics, Reward circuit

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