Can listening to a new song excite you just as much as a sexual encounter?
A new study, which was published in the journal Science, found hearing new music activates parts of the brain at levels comparable to those displayed when someone is anticipating sex.
Researchers studied 19 participants, who listened to 60 song excerpts broken down into 30-second clips. MRI scans were performed on the subjects as they listened. Only music previously unknown to the participants was used for each individual.
“We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward,” said Dr. Valorie Salimpoor, of Toronto’s Rotman Research Institute. “But music is abstract: It’s not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food… that’s when you would normally see activity.”
“New music activates the brain at
levels comparable to anticipating sex.”
Dr. Salimpoor said her study reflects a “new direction that neuroscience is going in – trying to understand what people are thinking and inferring their thoughts and motivations and eventually their behavior through their brain activity.”
The next step for researchers, according to Salimpoor, is trying to understand where musical tastes originate from and whether the brain can point to how individuals are drawn to certain musical genres.
Using a mock online store where participants could download the selections they most favored in the study, scientists found they could accurately anticipate which choices each subject was more likely to make based on their MRI readings.