How do listeners react to different urban soundscapes? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of perception and emotion

Deborah Hall, Amy Louise Irwin, Chris Plack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This research formed one part of a multi-disciplinary positive soundscapes project investigating the perception of urban sound environments. To determine the neural correlates associated with perceptual and affective responses to such sounds, we have measured ongoing brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sixteen participants were scanned while passively listening to a set of recordings made in urban spaces. In total, there were 150 recordings, each containing multiple sound sources. Soundscapes were matched in overall sound level [71 dB(A)] but differed in their ratings of pleasantness along a five-point scale. As expected listening to urban soundscapes evoked a significant response in a number of auditory brain regions (inferior colliculus, medial geniculate body, and auditory cortex). Crucially, those soundscapes evoking a strong emotional response (either pleasant or unpleasant) activated one of the main emotional centres in the brain-the amygdala. The perceived pleasantness of the soundscape also modulated the auditory response to the sounds. Our results confirm that that loudness is not the only factor that determines how people react to urban soundscapes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume127
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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