SPECIFIC musical anhedonia, or an inability to experience pleasure from music, has been associated with a reduction in the activity of an area of the brain involved in pleasure and reward responses in a recent study.
The team of researchers at the University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, Quebec, Canada, found reduced function in the nucleus accumbens of people with the condition when they listened to music. In their study, the team sought to investigate the neurological basis of why individuals with specific musical anhedonia do not experience music-induced pleasure.
The team recruited 45 participants for the study and divided them into 3 groups of 15 according to different sensitivities of reward responses to music. The participants were given music to listen to while inside an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and were asked to provide pleasure ratings in real-time. Individuals also played a monetary gambling task to provide the researchers with a control measure for assessing the levels of reward-related brain responses.
The team found that those with musical anhedonia showed reduced activity of the nucleus accumebens. The reduction was felt not to be related to dysfunction in this area of the brain because of the normal activity levels measured while the same individuals won money in the gambling task. This group also showed decreased functional connectivity between the right auditory cortex and ventral striatum.
In a statement, one of the researchers, Dr Robert Zatorre, Montreal Neurological Institute, Quebec, Canada said: “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.”
In their paper reporting the findings of the study, the team also wrote: “Our results suggest that specific musical anhedonia may be associated with a reduction in the interplay between the auditory cortex and the subcortical reward network, indicating a pivotal role of this interaction for the enjoyment of music.”
Jack Redden, Reporter