There are brain regions (X) that show stronger activation for joyful music, regions (Y) that show stronger activation for sad music, and regions (Z) that show similar activation for both.
Assuming that joyful or sad music activates similar brain regions as other tasks designed to induce a joyful or sad mood, we know more specifically:
Both joyful and sad music produce similar activation of the amygdala-hippocampal area, with activation extending into the parahippocampal gyrus, as well as activation of the prefrontal, temporal, and anterior cingulate cortices and the precuneus (regions Z).
Joyful music produces stronger activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the cingulate gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the cerebellum, and in the vicinity of the ventral medial frontal cortex (regions X).
Bringing these findings together the question arises
By which specific neuronal mechanisms does fast tempo and major mode music activate more strongly brain regions X than regions Y? And vice versa.
Is it by some kind of fine-tuned resonance (involving feedback) between the sensory input from the ears and the brain regions involved?
Are there specific theoretical (computational) models, and have they been tested?
How can - by these mechanisms - the subtle difference between a major and a minor third become so significant, both neuronally and emotionally?
- A systematic review of the neural correlates of positive emotions
- A Functional MRI Study of Happy and Sad Emotions in Music with and without Lyrics
- Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions
- Music and Emotions. Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration
- The Cambridge Handbook of Human Affective Neuroscience