Researchers from the Brain Cognition and Plasticity group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Barcelona (IDIBELL-UB), in collaboration with researchers from McGill University (Montreal), have published a new study in which they determine the brain mechanisms that explain the lack of sensitivity to music. The study, published in the journal PNAS , provides clues to the evolutionary importance of music based on the connection between the auditory and emotional areas of the brain. Despite the fact that listening to music is considered a rewarding activity on a universal scale, around 3-5% of the healthy population do not experience pleasant sensations in response to any type of music. This condition is known by the name of specific musical anhedonia. “Anhedonic people have no problem correctly perceiving and processing
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the information contained in a melody (such as intervals or rhythms) and they have a normal pleasure response to other types of pleasant stimuli (such as money), but they do not enjoy Ecuador Email List using musical stimuli “, explains Noelia Martínez-Molina, researcher of the IDIBELL-UB group and main author of the study. Although the existence of this phenomenon has been known for a few years, it was not known what was the reason why it occurred. In the study, the researchers studied 45 healthy volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants were divided into three groups based on the score obtained in a questionnaire developed by the same research group, the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire (BMRQ, available online at www.brainvitge.org/bmrq.php ). During the fMRI session, the participants had to listen to fragments of songs of the classical genre
provide pleasure values on a scale of 1 to 4 in real time. To control the brain’s response to other types of rewards, participants also had to play a money gambling task in which they could win or lose real money. The results showed that the decrease in the pleasant response to music of the participants with musical anhedonia is related to a reduction in the activity of the nucleus accumbens, a key subcortical structure of the reward system. On the contrary, the activity of this structure is maintained against other reinforcers, such as the money earned in the gambling task. “It is interesting to consider the evolutionary importance of the connection between the auditory and cortical areas and the more primitive subcortical system of emotional evaluation”, comments the researcher. This connection is very clear in musical hedonic people – those who enjoy music – and it is diminished in anhedonic people.