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Music - the key to feeling good?

The Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki is co-ordinating a wide-ranging EU-funded research project, Tuning the brain for music, or Braintuning, for short. The purpose of the project is to gain a deeper insight into the relationship between music, emotions and brain functions. The project has received EU funds totalling €2.5 million.

The Braintuning project aims to find out, among other things, why music has such a profound effect on our emotional life and how enjoying music and the emotions invoked by music are manifested in our brain functions. Another fascinating line of research focuses on how individual differences in musical preferences and emotions inspired by music can be explained. In addition to the structure of music, the emotions invoked by it are also influenced by the listener’s personality and the listening environment.

Certain regularities in the links between music and emotions are well known. A fast tempo piece in a major key is often felt to be happy and glad by Western adults, but different ways of playing can produce interpretations conducive to different emotions. A particular piece, when played in a certain way may sound aggressive, while played in another way, it may sound calming.

The University of Helsinki will focus particularly on how permanent music emotions and preferences are and how much of them can be explained by cognitive brain functions.

Answers to these questions are sought with the help of the latest methods in brain research, listening experiments as well as interview- and observation-based research methods.

The Braintuning project will last three years. In addition to the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä in Finland, participants include the Universität Leipzig, the Université de Montréal, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan in Stockholm and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.

Niina Haasola | alfa
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