The role of the medial temporal limbic system in processing emotions in voice and music.Prog Neurobiol. 2014 Dec; 123:1-17.PN
Subcortical brain structures of the limbic system, such as the amygdala, are thought to decode the emotional value of sensory information. Recent neuroimaging studies, as well as lesion studies in patients, have shown that the amygdala is sensitive to emotions in voice and music. Similarly, the hippocampus, another part of the temporal limbic system (TLS), is responsive to vocal and musical emotions, but its specific roles in emotional processing from music and especially from voices have been largely neglected. Here we review recent research on vocal and musical emotions, and outline commonalities and differences in the neural processing of emotions in the TLS in terms of emotional valence, emotional intensity and arousal, as well as in terms of acoustic and structural features of voices and music. We summarize the findings in a neural framework including several subcortical and cortical functional pathways between the auditory system and the TLS. This framework proposes that some vocal expressions might already receive a fast emotional evaluation via a subcortical pathway to the amygdala, whereas cortical pathways to the TLS are thought to be equally used for vocal and musical emotions. While the amygdala might be specifically involved in a coarse decoding of the emotional value of voices and music, the hippocampus might process more complex vocal and musical emotions, and might have an important role especially for the decoding of musical emotions by providing memory-based and contextual associations.