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.
"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."
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