Feeling the real world: Limbic response to music depends on related content

Eran Eldar, Ori Ganor, Roee Admon, Avraham Bleich, Talma Hendler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotions are often object related - they are about someone or something in the world. It is yet an open question whether emotions and the associated perceptual contents that they refer to are processed by different parts of the brain or whether the brain regions that mediate emotions are also involved in the processing of the associated content they refer to. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we showed that simply combining music (rich in emotion but poor in information about the concrete world) with neutral films (poor in emotionality but rich in real-world details) yields increased activity in the amygdala, hippocampus, and lateral prefrontal regions. In contrast, emotional music on its own did not elicit a differential response in these regions. The finding that the amygdala, the heart of the emotional brain, responds increasingly to an emotional stimulus when it is associated with realistic scenes supports a fundamental role for concrete real-world content in emotional processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2828-2840
Number of pages13
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Israeli Science Foundation (Bikura Program 1440/04, TH), the Israeli Ministry of Science and Sport. We thank Dr. Pazit Pianka for assistance during data acquisition, Dr. Arnon Neufeld and Mr. Oren Levin for technical assistance with data acquisition, Dr. Itamar Kahn for most insightful discussions over the data, Dr. Ricardo Tarrasch for statistical assistance, Dr. David Papo for comments on the manuscript, and Ms. Nirit Binyamini for assistance with the graphics.


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Hippocampus
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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