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Culture & Religion

Go Ahead, Get Some New Music. Your Brain Will Thank You.

Canadian scientists used MRI to observe brain activity when subjects listened to music they never heard before. The reward center of the brain lit up in response to music they liked.

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute played 60 30-second excerpts of new music to volunteers while they lay in an MRI machine, and gave them the offer to buy songs they liked in a fictional online music store. By analyzing the resulting scans done while the participants were listening, the team was able to effectively predict which song a volunteer was likely to buy based on activity around a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the “reward center.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Researcher Valorie Salimpoor says that the tests illustrate a new direction for neuroscience: “[We’re] trying to understand what people are thinking, and inferring their thoughts and motivations and eventually their behaviour through their brain activity.” The nucleus accumbens also interacted with the area of the brain that stores information based on previously heard music, which is unique for everyone “because we’ve all heard different music in the past.” Now that they can predict whether a person likes a song before they even say they do, the team wants to find out if the brain can reveal why people like certain kinds of music better than others.

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Read it at BBC News


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