Music’s Reward Value


Interactions Between the Nucleus Accumbens and Auditory Cortices Predict Music Reward Value

When you hear an unfamiliar tune, how do you wind up either tapping your foot or plugging your ears? A study finds that a specific brain region gives the song a thumbs up or down.

….values participants assigned to songs were associated with:

–  activity in the nucleus accumbens, a section of the brain’s pleasure center.
–  For more popular tunes, this region was more active and communicated more with the brain region that stores auditory information.

The scientists think the nucleus accumbens, which helps set expectations, draws on stored musical knowledge to predict how a new tune will play out. When the music fulfills or even exceeds these expectations, the listener feels rewarded. So your listening history helps determine whether you’ll like a new song—or tell it to hit the road.

…discovered that neural activity in the mesolimbic striatum during listening to a novel piece of music was the best predictor of the money listeners were willing to spend on buying the piece…neural processes when music gains reward value the first time it is heard.

–  The degree of activity in the mesolimbic striatal regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, during music listening was the best predictor of the amount listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music in an auction paradigm.
–  Importantly, the auditory cortices, amygdala, and ventromedial prefrontal regions showed increased activity during listening conditions requiring valuation, but did not predict reward value
–  which was instead predicted by increasing functional connectivity of these regions with the nucleus accumbens as the reward value increased.

Thus, aesthetic rewards arise from the interaction between mesolimbic reward circuitry and cortical networks involved in perceptual analysis and valuation.

“These results help us see why people like different music – each person has their own uniquely shaped auditory cortex, which is formed based on all the sounds and music heard throughout our lives. Also, the sound templates we store are likely to have previous emotional associations.”

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