It's Hard To Believe, But Not Everyone Likes Music

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

You're on a first date and powering through those essential getting-to-know-you questions. What do you do for a living? What's your family like? What's your favorite movie? How about your favorite bands? Wait...what? You soon discover that not only does your date not have a favorite band, but he actually doesn't care for music at all. Who doesn't like music? You'd be surprised—about 3–5 percent of the world's population has an apathy toward music. It's called musical anhedonia.

Why we're covering this:

The Rhythm Of Life?

In a 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used an fMRI machine to measure the neural responses of 45 students from the University of Barcelona while they were listening to music. The students were split into groups of people who absolutely adore music, people who have some interest in music, and people who don't care about music at all (musical anhedonics). Here's what they found: in the brains of people who enjoy music, the auditory and reward regions activated in harmony. For the music obsessed, there was a strong transfer of information between the two regions, and for the musically apathetic? Zero interaction.

Robert Zatorre, a cognitive neuroscientist and one of the study's authors, explains the implications of their findings to The Atlantic: "It shows that the experience that you have for music is linked to this type of neural response pattern—the more you have it, the more interaction there is between those two systems, the more you are likely to feel pleasure to music." Zatorre also explains that the opposite of musical anhedonia can occur—meaning, there are people who don't respond to anything except music. Chew on that.

Let The Beat Drop

With this study, the researchers hope to bring scientists one step closer to understanding how evolution made our brains treat music like a reward. For now, we know that music can get the dopamine flowing, it can give us chills, and (for some people), it can just make us bored. But, that's ok!

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