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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Tuomas Eerola

Hausmann, M., Hodgetts, S. & Eerola, T. (2016). Music-induced changes in functional cerebral asymmetries. Brain and Cognition 104: 58-71.

Author(s) from Durham


After decades of research, it remains unclear whether emotion lateralization occurs because one hemisphere is dominant for processing the emotional content of the stimuli, or whether emotional stimuli activate lateralised networks associated with the subjective emotional experience. By using emotion-induction procedures, we investigated the effect of listening to happy and sad music on three well-established lateralization tasks. In a prestudy, Mozart’s piano sonata (K. 448) and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata were rated as the most happy and sad excerpts, respectively. Participants listened to either one emotional excerpt, or sat in silence before completing an emotional chimeric faces task (Experiment 1), visual line bisection task (Experiment 2) and a dichotic listening task (Experiment 3 and 4). Listening to happy music resulted in a reduced right hemispheric bias in facial emotion recognition (Experiment 1) and visuospatial attention (Experiment 2) and increased left hemispheric bias in language lateralization (Experiments 3 and 4). Although Experiments 1–3 revealed an increased positive emotional state after listening to happy music, mediation analyses revealed that the effect on hemispheric asymmetries was not mediated by music-induced emotional changes. The direct effect of music listening on lateralization was investigated in Experiment 4 in which tempo of the happy excerpt was manipulated by controlling for other acoustic features. However, the results of Experiment 4 made it rather unlikely that tempo is the critical cue accounting for the effects. We conclude that listening to music can affect functional cerebral asymmetries in well-established emotional and cognitive laterality tasks, independent of music-induced changes in the emotion state.