Musical anhedonia

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Musical anhedonia, also known formally as specific musical anhedonia,[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

A study conducted at the University of Barcelona took 45 students and asked them to do a test which 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 (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 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 music.[6]

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.[7]

Social stigma[edit]

The majority of the world's population enjoys listening to music. According to some, for this reason, music can be considered to be a universal language. Individuals who suffer from musical anhedonia tend to find it challenging for themselves to understand why it is that they do not gain pleasure from listening to music. The core societal benefits that have emerged out of the new empirical research on the phenomenon are two-fold: it has helped people with this condition to better understand why they have it and it has served to educate the rest of the population that it is a real and legitimate condition that significantly impacts the lives of many around the world.[4]


  1. ^ "Musical anhedonia: why some people just don't like music". Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  2. ^ Martínez-Molina, Noelia, et al. "Neural correlates of specific musical anhedonia." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113.46 (2016): E7337-E7345.
  3. ^ "Musical anhedonia: why some people just don't like music". Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  4. ^ a b Gregoire, Carolyn (2017-01-06). "Not Liking Music Is An Actual Neurological Condition". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  5. ^ Phone: 514 398 3376, Contact Information Contact: Shawn Hayward Organization: Montreal Neurological Institute Email: shawn haywardmcgill ca Office. "Lack of joy from music linked to brain disconnection". The Neuro. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  6. ^ Abhat, Divya (2017-03-10). "Why Some People Just Don't Like Music". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  7. ^ Mas-Herrero, Ernest; Zatorre, Robert J.; Rodriguez-Fornells, Antoni; Marco-Pallarés, Josep (2014-03-17). "Dissociation between Musical and Monetary Reward Responses in Specific Musical Anhedonia". Current Biology. 24 (6): 699–704. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.068. ISSN 0960-9822. PMID 24613311.