The early adolescent brain on music: Analysis of functional dynamics reveals engagement of orbitofrontal cortex reward system

Maria Celeste Fasano*, Joana Cabral, Angus Stevner, Peter Vuust, Pauline Cantou, Elvira Brattico, Morten L. Kringelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Music listening plays a pivotal role for children and adolescents, yet it remains unclear how music modulates brain activity at the level of functional networks in this young population. Analysing the dynamics of brain networks occurring and dissolving over time in response to music can provide a better understanding of the neural underpinning of music listening. We collected functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 17 preadolescents aged 10–11 years while listening to two similar music pieces separated by periods without music. We subsequently tracked the occurrence of functional brain networks over the recording time using a recent method that detects recurrent patterns of phase-locking in the fMRI signals: the leading eigenvector dynamics analysis (LEiDA). The probabilities of occurrence and switching profiles of different functional networks were compared between periods of music and no music. Our results showed significantly increased occurrence of a specific functional network during the two music pieces compared to no music, involving the medial orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal cortices—a brain subsystem associated to reward processing. Moreover, the higher the musical reward sensitivity of the preadolescents, the more this network was preceded by a pattern involving the insula. Our findings highlight the involvement of a brain subsystem associated with hedonic and emotional processing during music listening in the early adolescent brain. These results offer novel insight into the neural underpinnings of musical reward in early adolescence, improving our understanding of the important role and the potential benefits of music at this delicate age.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Pages (from-to)429-446
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • adolescence
  • dynamic functional connectivity
  • music listening
  • orbitofrontal cortex
  • pleasure
  • Music/psychology
  • Auditory Perception/physiology
  • Humans
  • Prefrontal Cortex/diagnostic imaging
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Adolescent
  • Brain Mapping
  • Reward
  • Child


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