Some people love music so much that they crave it. Now, researchers think the opposite might also be true: in a study published in Current Biology today, an experiment shows that some people may not find any pleasure in music.
To pinpoint whether the condition, called musical anhedonia, existed, researchers analyzed the reactions of three different groups of people to both a music task and a monetary reward task. The people were grouped according to their pleasure ratings in response to music (high, average or low).
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When the participants were asked to rate the degree of pleasure they were experiencing while listening to pleasant music, some reported no pleasurable response - and showed no automatic responses to pleasing music. Those people did respond positively to the monetary reward task, showing that the brain's reward center wasn't to blame for the inability to experience rewards of all kinds.
Instead, "These results point to the existence of speciﬁc musical anhedonia and suggest that there may be individual differences in access to the reward system," the authors wrote.
"The idea that people can be sensitive to one type of reward and not to another suggests that there might be different ways to access the reward system and that, for each person, some ways might be more effective than others," said study author Josep Marco-Pallarés of the University of Barcelona Marco-Pallarés.
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It could also help researchers understand how sets of notes are translated into emotions, he said.
In a related study, researchers developed a questionnaire that breaks down the rewards of music into five factors, showing that people are rewarded by music to different degrees and in different capacities.