Monday, March 10, 2014

An inability to enjoy music?

Last week a number of papers appeared on musicality, music perception, and pleasure reactions while listening to music. Listeners that lack the latter are described in a paper by the group of Robert Zatorre and named music anhedonists. In a systematic study published online in Current Biology, the authors selected three groups of listeners from a large student population in Barcelona and ended up (using the Barcelona Musical reward Questionnaire) with three groups: a hyperhedonic (H-HDN), an average (HDN), and an anhedonic (ANH) group that has a self-reported low sensitivity to music (Mas-Herrero et al., 2014).

What the percentage of potential ANH listeners was in the student population is not reported, but it must be at least a few percent. So we're talking about quite a small group. The ANH group apparently can perceive (induced) emotions from music but has, as compared to the other two groups, considerably low (or no) pleasure responses to music.

While earlier studies showed that music can tap in into, or has a large overlap with the reward system that is also active for food and sex (orbitofrontal cortex, ventral striatum, amygdala, insula, and thalamus; see Sescousse et al., 2013), there might be, according to the authors, individual differences in access to the reward system. However, the nature of these differences is unclear.

In addition, this week a study was published on the musicality of non-musicians contributing to the idea that a talent for music is more wide-spread than we might generally think (Müllensiefen et al., 2014). Or to say it in other words: ‘It doesn’t devalue great poets, writers, and orators to say that every human is a user of language, nor does it devalue great musicians to acknowledge that all humans are inherently musical.’ (Erin Hannon on Facebook, 2008).

More on these studies in NRCVolkskrant and Wetenschap24 [Dutch].

ResearchBlogging.orgMas-Herrero, E., Zatorre, R., Rodriguez-Fornells, A., & Marco-Pallarés, J. (2014). Dissociation between Musical and Monetary Reward Responses in Specific Musical Anhedonia. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.068

ResearchBlogging.orgMüllensiefen, D., Gingras, B., Musil, J., & Stewart, L. (2014). The Musicality of Non-Musicians: An Index for Assessing Musical Sophistication in the General Population. PLoS ONE, 9 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089642

ResearchBlogging.orgSescousse, G., Caldú, X., Segura, B., & Dreher, J. (2013). Processing of primary and secondary rewards: A quantitative meta-analysis and review of human functional neuroimaging studies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37 (4), 681-696 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.02.002

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