Cerebral areas involved in music perception: Studying musicogenic epilepsy

Francesca Pittau, Francesca Bisulli, Carlotta Stipa, Ilaria Naldi, Laura Licchetta, Lidia Di Vito, Daniela Cevolani, Raffaele Agati, Paolo Tinuper

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Functional cerebral areas involved in listening to emotionally charged music are wider thanthose activated by neutral music. Based on the pathophysiology of musicogenic epilepsy, arare form of complex reflex epilepsy in which seizures are triggered by music, we can inferthe functional organization of the brain's processing of music. We studied a 36-year-old, righthandedmale amateur musician, who has had weekly epileptic partial seizures every time helistened to or played music with a strong emotional charge since the age of 24 years. Thepatient underwent prolonged video-polygraphic recording which documented three righttemporal seizures preceded for several seconds by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure,all triggered by listening to music with an emotional content. During functional neuroimaging(fMRI) he listened to both "neutral" and "emotionally charged" music. The "neutral music"activated only a small eloquent area in the right temporal lobe (acoustic area), whereas an"emotionally charged melody" activated diffuse eloquent areas on the fronto-temporooccipitallobes of the right hemisphere before seizure onset. Numerous studies havedemonstrated the predominant involvement of right hemisphere structures in networksinvolved in processing musical information. Most cases of musicogenic epilepsy showed thedominant role of the right temporal lobe disclosed by functional neuroimaging andneurophysiological techniques. The triggering stimulus in our patient seems to be a strongemotional feeling induced by specific melodies, as his seizures were preceded by an increasein heart rate and blood pressure. Our results emphasize the role of the right temporal lobe inmusicogenic epilepsy and show that the cerebral areas activated during the emotional statusleading to seizures encompass the auditory cortex activated by neutral music.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic: Composition, Interpretation and Effects
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781608761708
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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