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Computer Music Not As Calming

musicAn intriguing new research study discovers music elicits a stronger emotional response if played by musicians rather than clever computers.

The University of Sussex-led study is published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.

Neuroscientists looked at the brain’s response to piano sonatas played either by a computer or a musician and found that, while the computerized music elicited an emotional response – particularly to unexpected chord changes – it was not as strong as listening to the same piece played by a professional pianist.

Senior research fellow in psychology Dr Stefan Koelsch, who carried out the study with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, played excerpts from classical piano sonatas to twenty non-musicians and recorded electric brain responses and skin conductance responses (which vary with sweat production as a result of an emotional response).

Although the participants did not play instruments and considered themselves unmusical, their brains showed clear electric activity in response to musical changes (unexpected chords and changes in tonal key), which indicated that the brain was understanding the “musical grammar”.

This response was enhanced, however, when the sonatas were played by musicians rather than a computer.

Dr Koelsch said: “It was interesting for us that the emotional reactions to the unexpected chords were stronger when played with musical expression. This shows us how musicians can enhance the emotional response to particular chords due to their performance, and it shows us how our brains react to the performance of other individuals.”

The study also revealed that the brain was more likely to look for musical meaning when the music was played by a pianist.

“This is similar to the response we see when the brain is responding to language and working out what the words mean,” says Dr Koelsch.

“Our results suggest that musicians actually tell us something when they play The brain responses show that when a pianist plays a piece with emotional expression, the piece is actually perceived as meaningful by listeners, even if they have not received any formal musical training.”

Source: Public Library of Science

Computer Music Not As Calming

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Computer Music Not As Calming. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/09/computer-music-not-as-calming/2579.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.