Nav: Home

Brain structure determines individual differences regarding music sensitivity

June 27, 2019

The white matter structure in the brain reflects music sensitivity, according to a study by the research group on Cognition and Brain Plasticity of the Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (UB-IDIBELL).

The study, published in Journal of Neuroscience, shows that white matter connectivity, the tissue through which the different areas in the central nervous system communicate, is essential to understand why we like or dislike music. Also, it shows that brain reward structures have to work with perception structures so that people enjoy music.

UB researcher Josep Marco-Pallarés leads a study in which Antoni Rodríguez-Fornells (UB-IDIBELL-ICREA), Noelia Martínez-Molina, from the University of Helsinki (Finland), and Ernest Mas-Herrero and Robert Zatorre, from the McGill University (Canada)- have taken part.

People who do not feel any pleasure with music

Listening to music is regarded as a satisfying activity, but previous studies by this group showed there is an individual unevenness: there are people who could not live without music, and others who do not enjoy it at all, a condition that has been called specific musical anhedonia. According to Josep Marco-Pallarés, "this phenomenon occurs to healthy people, without any pathology. Therefore, people with specific musical anhedonia enjoy other stimuli (such as food, or money rewards), but they are not sensitive to a musical reward".

The study of the specific musical anhedonia determined that individual differences regarding musical rewards were related to the functional connectivity (different patterns of neuronal activation in different brain regions) in the auditory cortex, specifically the supratemporal auditory cortex, and a key area in the rewarding process, the ventral striatum. Thus, musical sensitivity depended on the work of these two areas together.

The objective of the new study was to find out whether musical sensitivity was defined by how perception process areas and reward system areas were connected. The experiment was conducted with thirty-eight healthy volunteers using imaging-functional magnetic resonance, which enables the reconstruction of the structure of the brain white matter, the white matter bundles that connect different brain regions.

Participants' musical sensitivity was determined through the obtained score in a questionnaire created by the same research group, the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire (BMRQ), which defined their musical sensitivity. After that, during the magnetic resonance session, participants had to listen to extracts from classical music songs and provide pleasure values ranging from 1 to 4 in real time. To control their brain response in other types of rewards, participants had to play in a money bet activity in which they could win or lose real money. None of the participants showed a low score in the general reward scale, showing that individual differences in the reward process are limited to music and not other stimuli.

The results of the experiment show there is a relation between the white matter structures connecting the musical cortex and the activity in the reward system. According to Josep Marc-Pallarés, "the study shows musical sensitivity is related to white matter structures that connect, on the one hand, the supratemporal auditory cortex with the orbitofrontal cortex, and on the other, the orbitofrontal cortex with the ventral striatum".

Why there is only musical anhedonia?

These results highlight the need to widen the study focus to understand the functioning of the brain reward systems. "We cannot study only the reward network, we need to know how stimuli access the reward system. This could be the key to understand why there are specific anhedonia for a specific stimulus like music but not for other stimuli like games or food, which could have other applications for the understanding of several pathologies that are related to specific addictions or specific anhedonia for a certain stimulus", concludes Josep Marco-Pallarés.
-end-


University of Barcelona

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

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.