Hearing a great song for the first time flips as many feel-good buttons in our brains as anticipating sex, a new study suggests.
Using MRI scans, Canadian scientists found that “reward areas” in the brain become active when they hear a good song for the first time. The more the person enjoyed the song they were hearing, the more their brain lit up.
The study, published in the journal Science, was headed by Dr. Valorie Salimpoor of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. She told the BBC the following of the research:
“We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward. But music is abstract: It’s not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food and you are really excited about it because you are going to eat it – or the same thing applies to sex or money – that’s when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens.
“But what’s cool is that you’re anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract – and that’s the next sound that is coming up.”
For the study, scientists played 60 excerpts of new music for 19 volunteers based on their music preferences. The tracks were broken down into 30-second clips, and volunteers were given the opportunity to “download” the tracks they liked in a mock online store.
Watching the MRI scans, scientists found that the nucleus accumbens lit up, and depending on the level, researchers were able to predict whether the subject was likely to “purchase” the song.
Dr. Salimpoor says that the study is an example of a “new direction that neuroscience is going in – trying to understand what people are thinking, and inferring their thoughts and motivations and eventually their behaviour through their brain activity.”
Next, the researchers want to figure out how to determine where our music tastes come from, and whether or not our brain activity explains why people are drawn to specific genres.
For now, we can simply confirm that your brain loves new music like it loves sex, food and money.
[Image via: Boris Ryaposov, Shutterstock.com]