Listening to music may not always lift your sagging spirits, nor songs make you feel like that everything is going to be all right again. Maybe, music does not affect you at all.
There are people who get their pleasure in other ways and simply music is not their cup of tea. This newly-found condition is called specific musical anhedonia, in other words, the specific inability to experience pleasure from music.
“The identification of these individuals could be very important to understanding the neural basis of music, to understand how a set of notes is translated into emotions,” said Josep Marco-Pallares of University of Barcelona in Spain.
The researchers earlier found hints about this form of anhedonia after they developed a questionnaire to evaluate individual differences in musical reward. Those evaluations found some individuals who reported low sensitivity to music but average sensitivity to other kinds of reward.
But multiple explanations are possible for these low music sensitivities. For instance, some people might seem to dislike music because they have trouble perceiving it, a condition called amusia. Or, maybe, some people simply answered the questions inaccurately.
To understand this, the research team decided to look more closely at three groups of 10 people each. Participants in the groups were chosen based on their ability to perceive music.
In the music task, they were asked to rate the degree of pleasure they were experiencing while listening to soothing music. In the monetary incentive delay task, they had to respond quickly to a target in order to win or avoid losing real money.
The results were clear.
Some otherwise healthy and happy people do not enjoy music and show no autonomic responses to its sound, despite normal musical perception capacities. Those people do respond to monetary rewards, which shows that low sensitivity to music is not tied to some global abnormality of the reward network.
“The idea that people can be sensitive to one type of reward and not to another suggests that there might be different ways to access the reward system. For each person, some ways might be more effective than others,” Marco-Pallares said in a report published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.