Scaling behaviour in music and cortical dynamics interplay to mediate music listening pleasure

Ana Filipa Teixeira Borges*, Mona Irrmischer, Thomas Brockmeier, Dirk J.A. Smit, Huibert D. Mansvelder, Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The pleasure of music listening regulates daily behaviour and promotes rehabilitation in healthcare. Human behaviour emerges from the modulation of spontaneous timely coordinated neuronal networks. Too little is known about the physical properties and neurophysiological underpinnings of music to understand its perception, its health benefit and to deploy personalized or standardized music-therapy. Prior studies revealed how macroscopic neuronal and music patterns scale with frequency according to a 1/fα relationship, where a is the scaling exponent. Here, we examine how this hallmark in music and neuronal dynamics relate to pleasure. Using electroencephalography, electrocardiography and behavioural data in healthy subjects, we show that music listening decreases the scaling exponent of neuronal activity and—in temporal areas—this change is linked to pleasure. Default-state scaling exponents of the most pleased individuals were higher and approached those found in music loudness fluctuations. Furthermore, the scaling in selective regions and timescales and the average heart rate were largely proportional to the scaling of the melody. The scaling behaviour of heartbeat and neuronal fluctuations were associated during music listening. Our results point to a 1/fresonance between brain and music and a temporal rescaling of neuronal activity in the temporal cortex as mechanisms underlying music appreciation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17700
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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