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Eric B Miller* and Rieko Eguchi
Montclair State University, David Ott Lab for Music and Health, USA
Received date: February 07, 2016; Accepted date: March 22, 2016; Published date: March 24, 2016
Citation: Miller EB, Eguchi R (2016) Brain Responses to Positive and Negative Messages in Song Lyrics. J Biomusic Eng 3:114. doi:10.4172/2090-2719.1000114
Copyright: © 2016 Miller EB, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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This single-subject pilot study investigated how the brain would react while listening to different combinations of major/minor sound and happy/sad lyrics. EEG was recorded across various combinations of musical mode and song lyric messages. Theta/Beta ratio did not decrease significantly at any site while listening to a positive message in minor key, the subject’s reported favorite condition. During negative lyrics in minor key, however, Theta/Beta decreased at T3 (p=0.048), at Pz (p=0.039), at Cz (p=0.050), at P3 (p=0.033), and at C3 (p=0.028). Hyper-connectivity was seen for the Delta, Theta and Alpha bands during positive lyrics in a minor key, compared with the hypo-connectivity for negative lyrics in a minor key at T3 seen for Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and High Beta.
We tend to associate major keys with happy emotions, and minor keys with sad emotions. In a Canadian study of 16 participants , major/ minor mode contributed to happy/sad judgments, as did tempo. We are also influenced by the spoken word. Positive words catch attention and influence incoming processes . An fMRI study suggested that happy music without lyrics and sad music with lyrics induce emotions more deeply than happy music with lyrics and sad music without lyrics . Various dynamics and relationships exist between music and words. How might the brain react if a song had positive lyrics in a minor key? Or suppose the brain hears negative lyrics in major key?
This single-subject pilot study investigated how the brain would react while listening to different combinations of major/minor sound and happy/sad lyrics. Slow wave activity is typically associated with a relaxed brain state while fast wave activity is indicative of arousal . We measured brain waves with a topographical 19 channel EEG. A subject listened to 4 conditions of music: positive lyrics in major key (PM), negative lyrics in major key (NM), positive lyrics in minor key (Pm) and negative lyrics in minor key (Nm) (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Shows increased (red) hyper-connectivity lines in the Delta, Theta and Alpha bands on the left for positive lyrics in a minor key, compared with the decreased (blue) hypo-connectivity lines on the right for negative lyrics in minor key at T3.
The cortical location T3 “lit up” for this subject showing a high level of responsiveness. T3 is associated with Brodmann areas 21 and 22 which include the section called Wernicke’s area that is responsible for interpretation of meaning in speech.
Theta/Beta ratio may be utilized to gauge cortical relaxation/ arousal in some contexts . With Beta increasing in the denominator, the corresponding lower ratio suggests elevated arousal.
Theta/Beta ratio did not decrease significantly at any site while listening to a positive message in minor key, the subject’s reported favorite condition. All other conditions however, displayed significant decreases in Theta/Beta ratio, suggesting that the subject was most relaxed during the positive message in the minor key. During positive lyrics in major key, Theta/Beta ratio decreased at C3 (p=0.032), at T3 (p=0.003), and at T4 (p=0.022). During negative message lyrics in a major key, Theta/Beta decreased at T3 (p=0.008), at Pz (p=0.047), at P3 (p=0.030), and at C3 (p=0.014). During negative lyrics in minor key, Theta/Beta decreased at T3 (p=0.048), at Pz (p=0.039), at Cz (p=0.050), at P3 (p=0.033), and at C3 (p=0.028) with several other sites approaching significance.
The most striking result was observed on the connectivity maps. Hyper-connectivity is shown for the Delta, Theta and Alpha bands during positive lyrics in a minor key, compared with the hypoconnectivity for negative lyrics in a minor key at T3 seen for Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and High Beta. This result corroborates those of a prior study finding that minor chords activated several brain areas, including the amygdala and cerebellum, more than major chords .
In this pilot study, minor keys appeared to indicate more relaxation effects than major keys overall, as major keys were associated with a higher level of arousal. When the minor key remained constant however, positive message lyrics displayed hyper-connectivity patterns while negative lyrics displayed hypo-connectivity patterns.
This pilot raises interesting questions for music therapists interested in neurologic response: Can a perceived positive/ negative message valence precipitate cortical slowing of brain connectivity patterns? Are there patients on either end of the spectrum where the slowing or acceleration would be a clinically desired effect? Might cortical hypo-activity relate to a meditative state, or conversely a “blocking” or avoidance effect? Further studies incorporating qualitative subject interview data combined with EEG measures across diverse emotional states and harmonic modes would help move our understanding of this phenomenon forward.
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