Musical study challenges long-held view of left brain-right brain split

June 4, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Ever been stuck in traffic when a feel-good song comes on the radio and suddenly your mood lightens?

Our emotions and are typically associated with the right side of the . For example, processing the emotion in human facial expressions is done in the right .

However, new Australian research is challenging the widely-held view that emotions and feelings are the domain of the right hemisphere only.

Dr. Sharpley Hsieh and colleagues from Neuroscience Research (NeuRA) found that people with , a disease where parts of the are severely affected, have difficulty recognising emotion in music.

These findings have exciting implications for our understanding of how music, language and emotions are handled by the brain.

“It’s known that processing whether a face is happy or sad is impaired in people who lose key regions of the right hemisphere, as happens in people with Alzheimer’s and semantic dementia”, says Dr. Hsieh.

“What we have now learnt from looking at people with semantic dementia is that understanding emotions in music involves key parts of the other side of the brain as well”, she says.

“Ours is the first study from patients with dementia to show that language-based areas of the brain, primarily on the left, are important for extracting meaning from music. Our findings suggest that the brain considers melodies and speech to be similar and that overlapping parts of the brain are required for both”, says Hsieh.

This paper is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

How was this study done?

• People with Alzheimer’s disease lose episodic memory (‘What did I do yesterday?’); people with semantic dementia lose semantic memory (‘What is a zebra?’).
• Dr. Hsieh studied people with Alzheimer’s disease, semantic dementia and healthy people without either disease. Participants were played new pieces of music and had to indicate whether the song was happy, sad, peaceful or scary.
• Images were then taken of the patients’ brains using MRI so that diseased parts of the brain could be compared statistically to the answers provided in the musical test.
• Patients with Alzheimer’s and semantic dementia have problems deciding whether a human face looks happy or sad because the amygdala in the right hemisphere is diseased.
• Patients with semantic have additional problems labelling whether a piece of music is happy or sad because the anterior temporal lobe in the left hemisphere is diseased.

Explore further: Recognition of anger, fear, disgust most affected in dementia

Related Stories

Recognition of anger, fear, disgust most affected in dementia

October 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study on emotion recognition has shown that people with frontotemporal dementia are more likely to lose the ability to recognise negative emotions, such as anger, fear and disgust, than positive ...

Dementia patients reveal how we construct a picture of the future

May 23, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Our ability to imagine and plan our future depends on brain regions that store general knowledge, new research shows.

Men have a stronger reaction to seeing other men's emotions compared with women's

December 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Men have a stronger response to seeing other men show emotion than when women show emotion, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

Brain cells created from patients' skin cells

February 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Cambridge scientists have, for the first time, created cerebral cortex cells – those that make up the brain’s grey matter – from a small sample of human skin.  The researchers’ ...

Recommended for you

Intermittent fasting found to increase cognitive functions in mice

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—The Daily Mail spoke with the leader of a team of researchers with the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. and reports that they have found that putting mice on a diet consisting of eating nothing every ...

Neuroscientists show deep brain waves occur more often during navigation and memory formation

December 12, 2017
UCLA neuroscientists are the first to show that rhythmic waves in the brain called theta oscillations happen more often when someone is navigating an unfamiliar environment, and that the more quickly a person moves, the more ...

How Zika virus induces congenital microcephaly

December 12, 2017
Epidemiological studies show that in utero fetal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) may lead to microcephaly, an irreversible congenital malformation of the brain characterized by an incomplete development of the cerebral ...

Presurgical imaging may predict whether epilepsy surgery will work

December 11, 2017
Surgery to remove a part of the brain to give relief to patients with epilepsy doesn't always result in complete seizure relief, but statisticians at Rice University have developed a method for integrating neuroimaging scans ...

Selecting sounds: How the brain knows what to listen to

December 11, 2017
How is it that we are able—without any noticeable effort—to listen to a friend talk in a crowded café or follow the melody of a violin within an orchestra?

Updated brain cell map connects various brain diseases to specific cell types

December 11, 2017
Researchers have developed new single-cell sequencing methods that could be used to map the cell origins of various brain disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.