• Music Tectonics

Fear, Music, and the Brain: What Makes Music Scary with Caitlyn Trevor PhD

Music and tech have long played their own ghoulish roles in making Halloween especially terrifying. In this week’s spooky episode, Caitlyn Trevor PhD joins host Tristra Newyear Yeager to explore what makes music scary and how our brains process fear.

Discover and experience how musical elements such as high drone tones, vocal mimicry, rhythmic unpredictability, low rumbling, and sound effects create soundscapes that evoke fear and anxiety. Learn how Caitlyn and her research team use pupil dilation, heart rate, micro expressions, and FMRI brain imaging to measure our physiological reaction to scary music. How can a greater understanding of how our brains process fear and anxiety help survivors of PTSD and trauma build emotional resilience? Find out on this week’s episode.


1:48 What is affective neuroscience?

5:48 Why fear?

7:33 How has being a musician and composer influenced your research as a scientist?

9:19 2021 Music Tectonics Conference in person in LA!

12:07 How do you conduct experiments for music and fear?

13:06 What makes music scary?

14:53 How do you measure psychological reactions to scary music?

24:51 Music x Fear

29:39 Other areas of affective neuroscience


Listen to this scary music playlist 👻


Listen to the full episode here on our website, or wherever you pod your favorite casts.


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Let us know what you think! Tweet @MusicTectonics, find us on Facebook and Instagram, or connect with podcast host Dmitri Vietze on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.