Modulation of corticospinal activity by strong emotions evoked by pictures and classical music: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study

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Using transcranial magnetic stimulation and skin conductance responses, we sought to clarify if, and to what extent, emotional experiences of different valences and intensity activate the hand–motor system and the associated corticospinal tract. For that purpose, we applied a newly developed method to evoke strong emotional experiences by the simultaneous presentation of musical and pictorial stimuli of congruent emotional valence. We uncovered enhanced motor-evoked potentials, irrespective of valence, during the simultaneous presentation of emotional music and picture stimuli (Combined conditions) compared with the single presentation of the two modalities (Picture/Music conditions). In contrast, vegetative arousal was enhanced during both the Combined and Music conditions, compared with the Picture conditions, again irrespective of emotional valence. These findings strongly indicate that arousal is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite for triggering the motor system of the brain. We offer a potential explanation for this discrepant, but intriguing, finding in the paper.

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