Lack of joy from music linked to brain disconnection

January 4, 2017
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. Credit: Hans Braxmeier

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 responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to .

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 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.

This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept. 27, 2016.

Explore further: Some people really just don't like music, study says

More information: Noelia Martínez-Molina et al, Neural correlates of specific musical anhedonia, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1611211113

Related Stories

Some people really just don't like music, study says

March 6, 2014
It is often said that music is a universal language. However, a new report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on March 6 finds that music doesn't speak to everyone. There are people who are perfectly able to experience ...

Study shows people who aren't moved by music have less functional connectivity between some brain regions

November 9, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Spain and Canada has found evidence that suggests people who are not emotionally moved by music have less connectivity between the regions in the brain responsible for processing ...

New study shows what happens in the brain to make music rewarding

April 11, 2013
A new study reveals what happens in our brain when we decide to purchase a piece of music when we hear it for the first time. The study, conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill ...

Brain imaging shows how prolonged treatment of a behavioral disorder restores a normal response to rewards

June 28, 2013
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by abnormal behavioral traits such as inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It is also associated with impaired processing of reward in the brain, meaning ...

Too much sugar during adolescence may alter brain's reward circuits

January 19, 2016
A new study in rats may provide significant insights into the long-term impacts of over-consumption of sugary foods during adolescence.

Recommended for you

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

New study reveals contrasts in how groups of neurons function during decision making

July 19, 2017
By training mice to perform a sound identification task in a virtual reality maze, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) have identified striking contrasts in how groups of neurons ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TrollBane
not rated yet Jan 04, 2017
Perhaps they would like music if it wasn't mostly formulaic unoriginal pap.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.