Skip navigation
How does music trigger emotion?


Narrator:       This is Science Today. Mapping the brain activity of a group of subjects listening to music has revealed that music evokes such vivid memories because the region of the brain where memories of our past are supported and retrieved also serves as the hub that links familiar music, memories and emotion. Petr Janata, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis' Center for Mind and Brain, says their study had a few technical challenges.

Janata:           One of them is simply figuring out how to select pieces of music that are going to trigger memories because it's a very individual thing and you don't really know what piece of music is going to do it for any particular person.

Narrator:       Janata's team developed a method that based a person's age with a database of short excerpts of music on Billboard's pop and R&B charts.

Janata:           We find that on average about 30 percent of the songs we play somebody will evoke some sort of autobiographical memory.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.