Signals from a specific region of the brain can help scientists predict what music people are tempted to buy and how much money they're willing to spend on it, a new study suggests.
Research slated for publication Friday in the journal Science identified the particular area that becomes active when people hear a song for the very first time. Measuring activity in that area — known as the nucleus accumbens — allows scientists to accurately assess the degree to which people are enjoying the sounds they're hearin
Neural harmony. Several brain regions work together to produce good vibrations when listening to favorite music.
Credit: Peter Finnie and Ben Beheshti
When jazz legend John Coltrane first heard Charlie Parker play the
saxophone, the music hit him "right between the eyes," he once said.
neuroscientists, Coltrane was exactly right. When we hear music that
we like, even for the first time, a part of the brain's reward system
is activated, a
new study has shown. The region, called the nucleus accumbens,
determines how much we value the song—even predicting how much a person
is willing to pay
for the new track.
Researchers scanned the brains of subjects while they listened to new songs and asked how much they would spend on buying the tracks. They found that the most popular songs - those which people were prepared to pay more for - were also the ones that elicited the strongest response in the nucleus accumbens, a structure in the centre of the brain that is involved in reward processing.
"This part of the brain is the part that has stored all the templates of the music we've heard in the past and will be unique for each individuals," she said. "The way that we like music is 100% unique to who we are and what we've heard in the past and the way that our superior temporal gyrus has been shaped. The brain is working a bit like a music-recommendation system."
The latest results shed further light into Salimpoor's 2011 study, which found that the experience of pleasure when listening to music was mediated by the release of the brain's reward chemical, dopamine. She said that music seemed to tap into the circuitry in the brain that had evolved to drive human motivation. This ancient reward system, when listening to music, was being used to provide a cognitive reward.
The experience of pleasure is mediated in all these situations by the release of the brain's reward chemical, dopamine, according to results of experiments carried out by a team led by Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, which are published today in Nature Neuroscience.