Research slated for publication Friday in the journal Science identified the particular area that becomes active when people hear a song for the very first time. Measuring activity in that area — known as the nucleus accumbens — allows scientists to accurately assess the degree to which people are enjoying the sounds they’re hearing.
Salimpoor and her colleagues at the McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital conducted their research by creating a mock music store resembling iTunes.
Study participants browsed through 60 songs they had never heard before and were encouraged to use their own money to acquire the ones they wanted. Participants underwent MRI scans as they perused the music selection and specified how much they were willing to spend on each song. Music was available for free, 99 cents, $1.29 or $2.
Volunteers in the study underwent MRI scans as they perused the music selection using an interface similar to iTunes. Salimpoor said the amount of neural activity originating in the nucleus accumbens was a very accurate predictor of how much the subjects were enjoying each individual song and what price they were willing to pay to obtain it.
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