10 Jan 2017 / Nathan Jolly
Some People’s Brains Just Won’t Let Them Enjoy Music, According To Science
You know how you some people will say they are into “everything” when you ask them what type of music they like, but you know they really mean they are into nothing?
Well, instead of scoffing at their lack of discernment when it comes to music, you should be sympathetic towards what is now believed to be a medical condition called “specific musical anhedonia.”
The condition is believed to affect 3-5% of the population, according to a new discovery by researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University. Basically, people who suffer from this (and it is suffering – have you heard ‘Pet Sounds’?) experience a reduced connection between the cortical regions that process sound and the subcortical regions that control reward systems. So, they hear music, and their brain goes ‘meh’.
The way researchers discovered this was by giving a questionnaire measuring sensitivity-levels to music to 45 participants, then dividing them based on their responses. They then repeated the questionnaire in real time, coupled with various music examples while inside an fMRI machine – with an unrelated gambling task used as a control. (The sensations from winning and losing money provide a similar ‘reward response’ result)
While this understandably sucks for those born without the ability to appreciate music (Have they heard ‘Pet Sounds’?) it is a big win for science, and could have pleasing knock-on effects.
“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 who co-authored the study, and resultant paper.