Nav: Home

Not feeling the music

January 04, 2017

Have you ever met someone who just wasn't into music? They may have a condition called specific musical anhedonia, which affects three-to-five per cent of the population.

Researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University have discovered that people with this condition showed reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to reward.

To understand the origins of specific musical anhedonia, researchers recruited 45 healthy participants who completed a questionnaire measuring their level of sensitivity to music and divided them into three groups of sensitivity based on their responses. The test subjects then listened to music excerpts inside an fMRI machine while providing pleasure ratings in real-time. To control for their brain response to other reward types, participants also played a monetary gambling task in which they could win or lose real money.

Using the fMRI data, the researchers found that while listening to music, specific musical anhedonics presented a reduction in the activity of the Nucleus Accumbens, a key subcortical structure of the reward network. The reduction was not related to a general improper functioning of the Nucleus Accumbens itself, since this region was activated when they won money in the gambling task.

Specific musical anhedonics, however, did show reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions associated with auditory processing and the Nucleus Accumbens. In contrast, individuals with high sensitivity to music showed enhanced connectivity.

The fact that subjects could be insensible to music while still responsive to another stimulus like money suggests different pathways to reward for different stimuli. This finding may pave the way for the detailed study of the neural substrates underlying other domain-specific anhedonias and, from an evolutionary perspective, help us to understand how music acquired reward value.

Lack of brain connectivity has been shown to be responsible for other deficits in cognitive ability. Studies of children with autism spectrum disorder, for example, have shown that their inability to experience the human voice as pleasurable may be explained by a reduced coupling between the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus and distributed nodes of the reward system, including the Nucleus Accumbens. This latest research reinforces the importance of neural connectivity in the reward response of human beings.

"These findings not only help us to understand individual variability in the way the reward system functions, but also can be applied to the development of therapies for treatment of reward-related disorders, including apathy, depression, and addiction," says Robert Zatorre, an MNI neuroscientist and one of the paper's co-authors.
-end-
This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept. 27, 2016. It was made possible with funds from the Governments of Spain and Catalonia, and from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

McGill University

Related Music Articles:

How listening to music in a group influences depression
New research published in Frontiers in Psychology takes a closer look at how music influences the mood in people suffering from depression, and examines what factors might affect whether listening to sad music in group settings provides social benefits for listeners, or if it rather reinforces depressive tendencies.
The making of music
A new study suggests that music -- and specifically infant-directed song -- evolved as a way for parents to signal to children that their needs are being met, while still freeing up parents to perform other tasks, like foraging for food, or caring for other offspring.
Not feeling the music
Researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University have discovered that people with this condition showed reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to reward.
Music in the brain: The first imaging genetic study linking dopaminergic genes to music
Sounds, such as music and noise, are capable of reliably affecting individuals' moods and emotions, possibly by regulating brain dopamine, a neurotransmitter strongly involved in emotional behavior and mood regulation.
How does the brain of people who do not like music work?
A new study by researchers at IDIBELL, UB and McGill University explains brain mechanisms associated to the lack of sensitivity to music and its evolutionary significance.
The mathematics of music history
New research from Center for Music in the Brain shows that patriotism in music is expressed through use of speech rhythms from the composer's native language.
Music at work increases cooperation, teamwork
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
Music makes beer taste better
Music can influence how much you like the taste of beer, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Why we like the music we do
A new study from MIT and Brandeis University suggests musical tastes are cultural, not hardwired in the brain.
Researchers look into the brains of music fans
As soon as social considerations also play a part in economic decisions, our brain seems to switch to a different processing mode.

Related Music Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...