Scientists identify brain's music pleasure centre

Scientists believe they may have identified the part of the brain which registers pleasure after listening to music.

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.

Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, says: "What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectation. Activity in the nucleus accumbens normally would indicate that expectations are being met or surpassed."

In the experiment, which is published in Science, Salimpoor and her colleagues scanned the brains of 20 people who used an iTunes-like interface to listen to 30-second clips of songs they had never heard before but were in a genre they generally liked.

The brain scans showed a direct relationship between how strong a response someone had in their nucleus accumbens to a song and how much they were willing to pay for it. This part of the brain was not acting alone, however. scientists also found that it was taking in information from the superior temporal gyrus.

"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."

This article was first published on The Guardian.

Image is credited to Kashirin Nickolai from Flickr.

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