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This article is part of the Research Topic The musical brain

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 21 June 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00347

The brain basis of musicophilia: evidence from frontotemporal lobar degeneration

Phillip D. Fletcher, Laura E. Downey, Pirada Witoonpanich and Jason D. Warren*
  • Dementia Research Centre, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK

Musicophilia, or abnormal craving for music, is a poorly understood phenomenon that has been associated in particular with focal degeneration of the temporal lobes. Here we addressed the brain basis of musicophilia using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) on MR volumetric brain images in a retrospectively ascertained cohort of patients meeting clinical consensus criteria for frontotemporal lobar degeneration: of 37 cases ascertained, 12 had musicophilia, and 25 did not exhibit the phenomenon. The syndrome of semantic dementia was relatively over-represented among the musicophilic subgroup. A VBM analysis revealed significantly increased regional gray matter volume in left posterior hippocampus in the musicophilic subgroup relative to the non-musicophilic group (p < 0.05 corrected for regional comparisons); at a relaxed significance threshold (p < 0.001 uncorrected across the brain volume) musicophilia was associated with additional relative sparing of regional gray matter in other temporal lobe and prefrontal areas and atrophy of gray matter in posterior parietal and orbitofrontal areas. The present findings suggest a candidate brain substrate for musicophilia as a signature of distributed network damage that may reflect a shift of hedonic processing toward more abstract (non-social) stimuli, with some specificity for particular neurodegenerative pathologies.

Keywords: music, musicophilia, craving, frontotemporal dementia, degeneration

Citation: Fletcher PD, Downey LE, Witoonpanich P and Warren JD (2013) The brain basis of musicophilia: evidence from frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Front. Psychol. 4:347. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00347

Received: 05 March 2013; Accepted: 29 May 2013;
Published online: 21 June 2013.

Edited by:

Jonathan B. Fritz, University of Maryland, USA

Reviewed by:

Psyche Loui, Harvard Medical School, USA
Joel Snyder, University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA

Copyright © 2013 Fletcher, Downey, Witoonpanich and Warren. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Jason D. Warren, Dementia Research Centre, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, 8–11 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK e-mail: jason.warren@ucl.ac.uk