Have you ever met anyone who found no pleasure in listening to music? It’s a rare thing, but it does exist, and actually comes with its own scientific classification – musical anhedonics. According to a new study, those who don’t like music may actually love real money gambling.
A research team, led by scientists at Quebec, Canada’s McGill University, conducted a study on musical anhedonics in which they tested the brain activity of people who simply don’t enjoy listening to music. The aim was to find out if there’s was a connection in the brain function between known stimuli and reward receptacles.
It had nothing to do with the type of music – rock, pop, country, classical, etc. Those who participated in the study, and were found to have musical anhedonics, were unable to enjoy any type of music their whole lives. The results indicate that an estimate 3-5% of the earth’s population suffer from this affliction.
To obtain controlled results, the researchers led subjects through two types of tests. The first tested their brain function while listening to music, while the other read brain activity during gambling – another common exercise in which the brain interprets reward.
Music and Real Money Gambling
A total of 45 individuals participated in the study. They were first placed inside an fMRI machine that was able to provide the brain’s real-time pleasure rating while listening to various excerpts of music.
Next, to judge the brain’s reaction to other types of rewards, each subject was asked to participate in a gambling activity in which real money could be won.
The results were quite conclusive. Those found to have musical anhedonics displayed a distinct reduction in connectivity between the brain’s cortical region – which is associated with the processing of auditory stimuli – and the nucleus accumbens – a subcortical region that plays a strong role in the brains reaction to reward.
Conversely, the subjects who normally find pleasure in music saw an increase of connectivity between the brains cortical and nucleus accumbens, displaying a reward response to the aufitory stimuli.
Furthermore, the subjects who were diagnosed with musical anhedonics displayed a contrary response in brain activity in these same regions while participating in the real money gambling activity. Thus, they were able to find enjoyment and reward from gambling, but not music.
Researchers believe this proves that there are different paths to reward for different individuals, based on a variety of controlled stimuli. Robert Zatorre, a neuroscientist with McGill University, Quebec, commented on the results.
“These findings not only help us to understand individual variability in the way the reward system functions, but also can be applied to the development of therapies for treatment of reward-related disorders, including apathy, depression, and addiction,” said Zatorre.
Further studies into this region of mental capacities will surely take place in the foreseeable future as scientists explore afflictions like those described above. Gambling addiction, in particular, has been the focal point of many recent studies in which scientists are hoping to find a more reliable treatment method.
The drug naltrexone – commonly prescribed to treat drug and alcohol addiction – was previously approved to help curb gambling addiction as well. Studies showed that it helped decrease the urge to wager in 75% of subjects tested.