Courtesy of Duke University, Durham, NC...
A new study looks into what makes people indifferent about music and the results don't fair well for people indifferent to music...
In essence, it all comes down to a reduced blood flow to the ‘reward system’ of the brain. Using MRI scan data to track groups of participants, the study revealed that non-music lovers had a lower level of activity in the auditory neural and reward pathways of their brains, while listening to instrumental music tracks they had specifically identified as “emotionally pleasing”.
As a comparison, the study also monitored the effect of traditionally rewarding activities, like gambling, and found no comparative blood flow losses to the brain’s reward regions of the ambivalent participants.
This study provides direct evidence supporting the model of reward–auditory cortex interaction as underlying musical pleasure: People who do not experience that pleasure have selectively reduced responses in that system. People who are especially sensitive to musical reward conversely seem to show an enhanced interaction.
This research offers insights into the neurobiological basis of music-induced pleasure that could also provide the basis for thinking more broadly about other types of aesthetic rewards. Our results also provide an important step toward the understanding of how music may have acquired reward value through evolution.
Neural correlates of specific musical anhedonia
Although music is ubiquitous in human societies, there are some people for whom music holds no reward value despite normal perceptual ability and preserved reward-related responses in other domains.
The study of these individuals with specific musical anhedonia may be crucial to understand better the neural correlates underlying musical reward. Previous neuroimaging studies have shown that musically induced pleasure may arise from the interaction between auditory cortical networks and mesolimbic reward networks.
If such interaction is critical for music-induced pleasure to emerge, then those individuals who do not experience it should show alterations in the cortical-mesolimbic response. In the current study, we addressed this question using fMRI in three groups of 15 participants, each with different sensitivity to music reward.
We demonstrate that the music anhedonic participants showed selective reduction of activity for music in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), but normal activation levels for a monetary gambling task. Furthermore, this group also exhibited decreased functional connectivity between the right auditory cortex and ventral striatum (including the NAcc).
In contrast, individuals with greater than average response to music showed enhanced connectivity between these structures. Thus, our results suggest that specific musical anhedonia may be associated with a reduction in the interplay between the auditory cortex and the subcortical reward network, indicating a pivotal role of this interaction for the enjoyment of music.
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