Music and Emotion

Research group leader


  • Christian Mikutta, MD
  • Simon Schwab, PhD

Research focuses

  • Expectancy violations in Music
  • Physiological correlates of violations in musical progression (rhythm and harmony)
  • Connections between musical elements and memory
  • Elements of music that elicit emotions


  • Cardiovascular Activity
  • Heart Rate Activity
  • Electrodermal Activity
  • EEG
  • ECoG
  • fMRI
  • Harmonic and Rhythmical Analysis of Music
  • Behavioral Experiments
  • Semblance Analysis

Short description

We investigate the interplay between music as well as musical performance in the context of expectancy violations and physiological variables of listeners. The main goal is to find musical aspects in harmony, melody and rhythm that have the power to elicit emotions. Different physiological systems (neurophysiology as well as peripheral physiology) are use to get an indication of bodily reactions that covariate with musical concepts. There relevance is found in music theory that serves as an objective quantification of everyday aspects of sound conceptionalized in western music. Current lines of research focus on the listeners’ involvement to sound that may be seen as artistic variant of prosody in speech. Emotional message through sound are the key features that guide our experimental work.