Table of Contents
Advances in Neuroscience
Volume 2014, Article ID 482126, 9 pages
Research Article

The Effect of Simple Melodic Lines on Aesthetic Experience: Brain Response to Structural Manipulations

1Department of Neuroscience, Università di Parma, Via Volturno 39/E, 43100 Parma, Italy
2Department of Humanistic Studies, Università del Piemonte Orientale, Via Manzoni 8, 13100 Vercelli, Italy
3Associazione Cantabile, Via Campana 2, 10125 Turin, Italy
4Department of Philosophy, Università Degli Studi di Torino, Via Sant’Ottavio 20, 10125 Turin, Italy
5Department of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 20123 Milan, Italy

Received 20 June 2014; Revised 5 December 2014; Accepted 8 December 2014; Published 30 December 2014

Academic Editor: Notger G. Mueller

Copyright © 2014 Stefania Ferri et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This fMRI study investigates the effect of melody on aesthetic experience in listeners naïve to formal musical knowledge. Using simple melodic lines, whose syntactic structure was manipulated, we created systematic acoustic dissonance. Two stimulus categories were created: canonical (syntactically “correct,” in the Western culture) and modified (made of an altered version of the canonical melodies). The stimuli were presented under two tasks: listening and aesthetic judgment. Data were analyzed as a function of stimulus structure (canonical and modified) and stimulus aesthetics, as appraised by each participant during scanning. The critical contrast modified versus canonical stimuli produced enhanced activation of deep temporal regions, including the parahippocampus, suggesting that melody manipulation induced feelings of unpleasantness in the listeners. This was supported by our behavioral data indicating decreased aesthetic preference for the modified melodies. Medial temporal activation could also have been evoked by stimulus structural novelty determining increased memory load for the modified stimuli. The analysis of melodies judged as beautiful revealed that aesthetic judgment of simple melodies relied on a fine-structural analysis of the stimuli subserved by a left frontal activation and, possibly, on meaning attribution at the charge of right superior temporal sulcus for increasingly pleasurable stimuli.