Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why people love listening to new music. Revealed!


A new study has identified the specific brain activity that makes new music rewarding and predicts the decision to purchase music.
The study was conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University.

Participants in the study listened to 60 previously unheard music excerpts while undergoing functional resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, providing bids of how much they were willing to spend for each item in an auction paradigm.

“When people listen to a piece of music they have never heard before, activity in one brain region can reliably and consistently predict whether they will like or buy it, this is the nucleus accumbens which is involved in forming expectations that may be rewarding,” said lead investigator Dr. Valorie Salimpoor, who conducted the research in Dr. Robert Zatorre’s lab at The Neuro and is now at Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute.

“What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectations. Activity in the nucleus accumbens is an indicator that expectations were met or surpassed, and in our study we found that the more activity we see in this brain area while people are listening to music, the more money they are willing to spend,” Salimpoor stated.
The second important finding is that the nucleus accumbens doesn’t work alone, but interacts with the auditory cortex, an area of the brain that stores information about the sounds and music we have been exposed to.

In other words, the brain assigns value to music through the interaction of ancient dopaminergic reward circuitry, involved in reinforcing behaviours that are absolutely necessary for our survival such as eating and sex, with some of the most evolved regions of the brain, involved in advanced cognitive processes that are unique to humans.

The study was published in the journal Science.


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