Psychology Magazine

How Musical Sound Becomes Rewarding - Predictions and the Brain

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds

I would like to point out this review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Seeing more than the summary below does require a subscription or other access.

•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.
I will pass on some clips that summarize brain areas involved in auditory and music perception:
The superior temporal cortex (STC), which houses both primary and secondary auditory areas, is involved in a wide range of auditory processing relevant to music, including processing pitch and extraction of pitch and tonal relationships. It is also thought to store templates of sound events that we have accumulated over the years. Electrical stimulation of the STC elicits musical hallucinations, and increased activity in this region is associated with imagery and familiarity of music, suggesting that it stores previously heard auditory information. Acquired auditory information stored in this region may provide the basis for expectancy generation during music listening.
To appreciate music is to recognize patterns by sequencing structural information, recognizing the underlying structure, and forming predictions. These processes are continuously updated, refined, and revised with incoming information. These operations typically involve the frontal cortices of the brain, particularly the Inferior frontal gyrus (IFG)...The IFG and STG are often co-activated, and may possibly work together to process various aspects of music. Furthermore, there is evidence that white matter connectivity in this pathway is associated with the ability to learn new syntactic structures in the auditory domain. Finally, disruption of STG–IFG pathways has been observed in people with congenital amusia who show music perception deficits.
...dopaminergic coding of cues predicting upcoming rewards, and dopaminergic signaling of positive prediction errors, are essential to the high incentive reward value of musical experience. [One study] combined [11C]-raclopride positron emission tomography and fMRI to show dopamine release in two regions of the striatum (caudate and nucleus accumbens, NAcc) while participants listened to self-selected highly pleasurable music. This study also found differential hemodynamic responses in these regions during anticipation versus experience of peak pleasure moments in the music

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