Musical Anhedonia: A Dislike of Music
Synopsis: Study explains brain mechanisms associated to lack of sensitivity to music and how the brain of people who do not like music works.1
Author: IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute2 Contact: idibell.cat
Published: 2016-11-17 Updated: 2020-09-11
Around 3-5% of the population does not experience pleasurable feelings in response to any type of music. This condition is known by the specific name of musical anhedonia.
Anhedonic people do not have problems correctly perceiving and processing information contained in a melody and present normal pleasure response to other pleasant stimuli such as money - but do not enjoy musical stimuli.
Researchers from the Cognition and Cerebral Plasticity group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Barcelona (IDIBELL-UB), in collaboration with researchers from the University of McGill (Montreal), have published a new study in which brain mechanisms associated to the lack of sensitivity to music are explained. The study, published by PNAS journal, gives clues about the importance of music at an evolutionary level based on the connection between the auditory and emotional areas of the brain.
Although listening to music is considered a rewarding activity on a universal scale, about 3-5% of the healthy population does not experience pleasurable feelings in response to any type of music. This condition is known by the specific name of "musical anhedonia".
Anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. While earlier definitions of anhedonia emphasized pleasurable experience, more recent models have highlighted the need to consider different aspects of enjoyable behavior, such as motivation or desire to engage in activities (motivational anhedonia), as compared to the level of enjoyment of the activity itself.
"Anhedonic people do not have problems correctly perceiving and processing the information contained in a melody (such as intervals or rhythms) and present a normal pleasure response to other pleasant stimuli (such as money), but do not enjoy musical stimuli", explains Noelia Martínez-Molina, researcher at the IDIBELL-UB group and lead author of the study. Although the existence of this phenomenon has been known for some years, it was not known why or how it was produced.
In their work, researchers analyzed 45 healthy volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Participants were divided into three groups according to the score obtained in a questionnaire developed by the same research group, the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire (BMRQ, available online at brainvitge.org/bmrq.php).
During the fMRI session, participants had to listen to snippets of classic genre songs and provide pleasure values on a scale from 1 to 4 in real time.
To control the brain response to other types of rewards, participants also had to play a monetary wagering task in which they could win or lose real money.
The results showed that the decrease of pleasant response to music shown by participants with musical anhedonia is related to a reduction in the activity of the nucleus accumbens, a key subcortical structure of the reward system. However, the activity of this structure is maintained when other reinforcers, such the money gained in the task of betting, are in place.
Neural correlates of specific musical anhedonia. Diagram Credit: IDIBELL
"It is interesting to consider the evolutionary importance of the connection between the auditory areas, cortical, and the more primitive system of emotional evaluation, subcortical", says the researcher. This connection is very clear in hedonic musical people - those who enjoy music - but diminishes in anhedonics.
"The link between areas ensures that music is experienced as very rewarding, while stressing its importance at an evolutionary level, even when it does not seem obvious what the biological gain of this cultural production is."
2Source/Reference: IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (idibell.cat). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
Related The Human Brain Documents
Full List of The Human Brain Publications Full List of Disabled World News Updates
Recent Disability News and Updates
Full List of Disabled World News Updates
Disclaimer: Disabled World is strictly a news and information website provided for general informational purpose only and does not constitute medical advice. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.
Disclosure: Disabled World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on disabled-world.com does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World. View our Advertising Policy for further information.