Why can't I enjoy music?

Not everyone can enjoy music

Barcelona (Spain) - Music is often seen as something universal that can build bridges and is something very special, something unique to people. Still: not everyone likes music. Spanish researchers have observed that some people simply don't like melodies and songs. Although they can perceive music normally, these people are not able, like most others, to experience fun and joy while doing it. Other forms of rewards, on the other hand, such as those that arise when winning money, trigger the normal reactions in the brain of those who don't like music. The results, the scientists report in the journal “Current Biology”, not only indicate the existence of a specific anhedonia for music - i.e. the inability to enjoy music. In addition, they also suggest that there may be individual differences in access to the reward system.

“The idea that someone can be receptive to one type of reward but not another,” says Josep Marco-Pallarés from the University of Barcelona, ​​“suggests that there could be different ways of addressing the reward system, and for each individual some ways could be more effective than others. ”The researchers had already found indications in an earlier questionnaire study that some people apparently cannot really enjoy music. At the time, however, they did not find an explanation for this - for example whether these people perceive music differently or simply answered the questions incorrectly.

In the current study, Marco-Pallarés and his colleagues wanted to get to the bottom of the phenomenon. To do this, they had 30 test persons, all of whom were able to perceive music, run two experiments each. A third of the test subjects responded strongly emotionally to music, the second third on average. The third third, on the other hand, was not very susceptible to perceiving music as rewarding. For one task, a music task, participants were asked to rate how much they enjoyed listening to pleasant music. The other task, on the other hand, was about assessing how rewarding was for winning money. The researchers also measured the test subjects' physical reactions to emotions using skin resistance and heart rate.

In fact, it turned out that there is anhedonia in relation to music. Some people, even though they are perfectly healthy and happy and perceive music in the same way as others, cannot enjoy music or show any physical reactions to these types of sounds. On the other hand, they do respond to financial rewards. This shows that there is no fundamental disruption of the reward system. The researchers hope that the results could help to better understand the neural basis of music and the development and processing of reward reactions. “About to be understood”, explains Marco-Pallarés, “how a set of notes is transformed into emotions.”

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