Is your friend, family member, or significant other’s taste in music driving you crazy? Just some tweaks in their brain can them to see--or rather, hear--things your way.
Our musical preferences may change as we grow, but they can also change after the stimulation of certain parts of the brain.
We like what we like. Some of us like pop, some of us like rock, some of us like country, and some of us like all of the above, plus several more. We know that our music tastes may change over time, and almost all of us probably have at least one musical act that we’re embarrassed to admit we listened to when we were younger. While this seems like a normal part of growing up, is there a way to alter how much we enjoy music by reaching into our brain itself?
Scientists say yes, there is. A new study shows that non-invasive technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can stimulate--as well as inhibit--parts of the brain. So with technique, will we be able to get someone to stop listening to Taylor Swift and buy a few Megadeth records instead?
What do you like listening to?
As far as scientists know, our appreciation for music originates from the frontostriatal circuits in the brain. These are parts of the brain that dish out rewards for things such as surprise and, surprisingly, anticipation. Though scientists know this much about this part of the brain, they have yet to manipulate the circuits to see how they handle certain stimuli and how they influence our behavior. Manipulating these circuits entails the application of TMS on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).
Thus, researchers set out to find out exactly that by setting up a series of three experiments involving 17 volunteers. Researchers enhanced the activity in the DLPFC in the first experiment, inhibited it in the second, and left it alone in the third. Each experiment was followed by a session in which the volunteers listened to clips of their favorite music, as well as a few songs chosen by the researchers.
Afterward, the volunteers were asked how much they enjoyed the music they listened to, and whether or not they’d pay to buy that music if given the chance. Researchers figured that if the volunteers were willing to purchase the music, they were therefore willing to listen to it again. The results of the experiments showed that stimulating the DLPFC led to greater enjoyment of music and the greater desire to purchase it. Meanwhile, inhibiting the DLPFC had the exact opposite effect.
Non-invasive tweaks in the brain may lead you to like the kinds of music that you've previously disliked.
"Showing that pleasure and value of music can be changed by the application of TMS is not only an important—and remarkable—demonstration that the circuitry behind these complex responses is now becoming better understood, but it also has possible clinical applications," says professor of neurology and neurosurgery Robert Zatorre, one of the researchers. He goes on to say that when our reward circuitry is unregulated, it can lead to disorders like addiction, obesity, and depression.
Thus, while this study has given us an opportunity to look into how our tastes in music is formed, it can also help future research on how the manipulation of brain activity can help treat addiction and depression. The study may have had a small sample size, but it can serve as a stepping stone for further development of what we know in this area.
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