From Science Daily, implications for why vocal tone is so influential, either in song or in speech:
A new study in the journal PLoS ONE finds that people use the same brain regions to produce and understand intonation in speech.
Many studies suggest that people learn by imitating through so-called mirror neurons. This study shows for the first time that prosody — the music of speech — also works on a mirror-like system.
And it turns out that the higher a person scores on standard tests of empathy, the more activity they have in their prosody-producing areas of the brain.
So increased empathic ability is linked to the ability to perceive prosody as well as activity in these motor regions, said authors Lisa Aziz-Zadeh and Tong Sheng of USC, and Anahita Gheytanchi of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.
“Prosody is one of the main ways that we communicate with each other,” Aziz-Zadeh said.
In some cases, humans can’t do without it, as in the case of a stroke victim who garbles words but can express emotion.
Or when talking to a pet: “If you have a pet, they basically are understanding your prosody,” Aziz-Zadeh said.