Human brains are wired to make music-color connections

May 19, 2013 at 8:04 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif., May 19 (UPI) -- When listening to music, human brains are wired to make music-color connections depending on how the melodies make people feel, U.S. researchers say.

Vision scientist Stephen Palmer of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues found people in both the United States and Mexico linked the same pieces of classical orchestral music with the same colors suggesting humans share a common emotional palette -- when it comes to music and color -- that appears to be intuitive and can cross cultural barriers.

"The results were remarkably strong and consistent across individuals and cultures and clearly pointed to the powerful role that emotions play in how the human brain maps from hearing music to seeing colors," Palmer said in a statement.

Using a 37-color palette, Palmer and colleagues found people tended to pair faster-paced music in a major key with lighter, more vivid, yellow colors, whereas slower-paced music in a minor key was more likely to be teamed up with darker, grayer, bluer colors.

For example, Mozart's jaunty Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major is most often associated with bright yellow and orange, whereas his dour Requiem in D minor is more likely to be linked to dark, bluish gray, Palmer said.

"Surprisingly, we can predict with 95 percent accuracy how happy or sad the colors people pick will be based on how happy or sad the music is that they are listening to," Palmer said in a statement.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, might have implications for creative therapies, advertising and even music player gadgetry.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the International Association of Color conference at the University of Newcastle in England July 8.

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