Neural Correlates of Contemporary Classical Music: Can Uncertainty lead to Pleasure?

The neuroscientific research on musical pleasure has so far focused on Western tonal music. It has been associated with activity in the limbic system, distinguishing two main neural activity patterns, probably reflecting phases of either anticipation or peak experience. This has led researchers to the notion that predictive mechanisms are central for inducing emotions and arousal in music listening, in particular due to the generation of predictions and their violations.

However, contemporary classical music (CCM) is characterized by the lack of a regular meter and tonal structure resulting in a very complex and very unpredictable stimulus environment. Thus the question that arises is how this experienced uncertainty can lead to pleasure and to which kind of pleasure. 

The current study aims to add to the understanding of the aesthetic experience (of music) by involving a musical genre that follows a significantly different aesthetic paradigm than Western tonal music. Outcomes could contribute to an understanding of how individuals are able to adapt to uncertain environments and could point towards mechanisms that lead to appreciation of such environments.