Musical Anhedonia

Musical Anhedonia


5% of people have a biological disdain for music, called "musical anhedonia".


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Musical anhedonia, also known formally as specific musical anhedonia, is a neurological condition involving an individual's incapacity to enjoy listening to music. Recent empirical research suggests that 3 to 5% of the population are affected by it. One notable finding relevant to this phenomenon was borne out of a scientific study conducted in 2014, which revealed that while those exhibiting musical anhedonia do not have a problem comprehending music; they simply fail to experience or exhibit any material form of positive emotional response from listening to it.

Researchers have discovered that people with this condition showed reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to reward.

A study conducted at the University of Barcelona took 45 students and asked them to do a test that measured their sensitivity to musical reward. The students were divided into three cohorts: people who don't care for music at all, those who have some interest in music, and those who "live and breathe music". The students then listened to music while their brain activity was measured by an fMRI. Participants were given other psychological and emotional perception-oriented tests that were related to the notion of money during the MRI procedure to control the experiment for music or to isolate the effect or effects of the independent variable of music (i.e., in other words, to make sure the participants with musical anhedonia only showed no emotion while listening to music). During the experiment, the three different cohorts scored differently. From their results, the researchers concluded that those who "lived and breathed music" had the strongest transfer of information between the auditory cortex and the reward center of the brain. This experiment provided evidence that music is linked with the brain, which affects the sensory and reward regions of the brain. The information transfer between the auditory cortex and reward center increased in those who stated that they derive some enjoyment from music. However, for the people who had musical anhedonia, researchers concluded that the auditory and reward regions of the brain did not interact as much as they did with the people who enjoyed the music.

MRI scans also showed that people with this condition have relatively little connection between the nucleus accumbens and auditory cortex compared to the average person. It was also empirically deduced that individuals who are shown to enjoy listening to music have a higher connection in this area of the brain than those who are found to have the condition.


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