Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Predictions and the brain: how musical sounds become rewarding

I want to point to the review article in Trends in Cognitive Science by Salimpoor, Zatorre, and collaborators  that outlines brain mechanisms underlying the pleasure we can feel on listening to music. (Motivated readers can request a copy of the article from me.)
•Dopamine release in mesolimbic reward circuits leads to reinforcement tied to predictions and outcomes. 
•Musical pleasure involves complex interactions between dopamine systems and cortical areas. 
•Individual variability in superior temporal cortex may explain varied musical preferences. 
•Cognitive, auditory, affective, and reward circuits interact to make music pleasurable. Music has always played a central role in human culture. 
The question of how musical sounds can have such profound emotional and rewarding effects has been a topic of interest throughout generations. At a fundamental level, listening to music involves tracking a series of sound events over time. Because humans are experts in pattern recognition, temporal predictions are constantly generated, creating a sense of anticipation. We summarize how complex cognitive abilities and cortical processes integrate with fundamental subcortical reward and motivation systems in the brain to give rise to musical pleasure. This work builds on previous theoretical models that emphasize the role of prediction in music appreciation by integrating these ideas with recent neuroscientific evidence.
(added note.... I just realized that I am repeating mention of the same article I pointed to in my more thorough Feb. 13 post! I guess the 72 year old brain is getting a bit forgetful.)

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