Subthalamic deep brain stimulation influences complex emotional musical experience in Parkinson's disease

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Abstract

Subthalamic deep brain stimulation (STN DBS) is an effective treatment for reducing the motor symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), but several side effects have been reported, concerning the processing of emotions. Music has been shown to evoke powerful emotional experiences - not only basic emotions, but also complex, so-called aesthetic experiences. The goal of the present study was therefore to investigate how STN DBS influences the experience of both basic and more complex musical emotions in patients with PD. In a three-group between-participants design, we compared healthy controls (HC), patients receiving STN DBS (PD-DBS), and patients who were candidates for STN DBS and receiving medication only (PD-MO) on their assessments of subjectively experienced musical emotions. Results showed that in general, the experience of musical emotions differed only marginally between the PD-MO, PD-DBS, and HC groups. Nonetheless, we were able to discern subtle but distinct effects of PD and STN DBS in the emotional responses. Happy music, for instance, seemed to induce a heightened experience of negative emotions (tension) in PD-MO patients. STN DBS appeared to normalize this particular effect, but increased nostalgic feelings - a rather complex affective experience – in response to the same emotional stimuli. This should not be taken as indicating a bias for nostalgia in the PD-DBS subgroup, as these patients found music inducing melancholy to be less nostalgic and more joyful than HC did. In conclusion, our study showed that music elicits slightly altered emotional experiences in patients with and without STN DBS. In particular, STN DBS seems to induce less distinct emotional responses, blurring the boundaries between complex musical emotions.

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