The structural neuroanatomy of music emotion recognition: evidence from frontotemporal lobar degeneration

Rohani Omar, Susie M D Henley, Jonathan W Bartlett, Julia C Hailstone, Elizabeth Gordon, Disa A Sauter, Chris Frost, Sophie K Scott, Jason D Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Citations (SciVal)


Despite growing clinical and neurobiological interest in the brain mechanisms that process emotion in music, these mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) frequently exhibit clinical syndromes that illustrate the effects of breakdown in emotional and social functioning. Here we investigated the neuroanatomical substrate for recognition of musical emotion in a cohort of 26 patients with FTLD (16 with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, bvFTD, 10 with semantic dementia, SemD) using voxel-based morphometry. On neuropsychological evaluation, patients with FTLD showed deficient recognition of canonical emotions (happiness, sadness, anger and fear) from music as well as faces and voices compared with healthy control subjects. Impaired recognition of emotions from music was specifically associated with grey matter loss in a distributed cerebral network including insula, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex, anterior temporal and more posterior temporal and parietal cortices, amygdala and the subcortical mesolimbic system. This network constitutes an essential brain substrate for recognition of musical emotion that overlaps with brain regions previously implicated in coding emotional value, behavioural context, conceptual knowledge and theory of mind. Musical emotion recognition may probe the interface of these processes, delineating a profile of brain damage that is essential for the abstraction of complex social emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1814-1821
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Early online date6 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Aged
  • Amygdala/pathology
  • Cues
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Face/physiology
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration/pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Limbic System/pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music/psychology
  • Nerve Net/pathology
  • Parietal Lobe/pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex/pathology
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Recognition (Psychology)/physiology
  • Temporal Lobe/pathology


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