Friday, May 3, 2013

Music and the Brain #1

A study conducted at McGill University in Montreal and published in the journal Science in April ‘13 has revealed new information about music and the brain. Researchers wanted to pinpoint the specific brain activity that makes new music rewarding and predicts the decision on the part of a listener to purchase the music. Participants in the study listened to 60 previously unheard music excerpts while undergoing functional resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, providing bids of how much they were willing to spend for each item in an auction paradigm. An innovative aspect of this study was how closely it mimiced real-life music-listening experiences. Researchers used a similar interface and prices as iTunes. To replicate a real life scenario as much as possible and to assess reward value objectively, individuals could purchase music with their own money, as an indication that they wanted to hear it again. Since musical preferences are influenced by past associations, only novel music excerpts were selected (to minimize explicit predictions) using music recommendation software (such as Pandora, to reflect individual preferences. Watch for study conclusions in the next two blogs.
NOTE: you may listen to the music excerpts used in the study if you're so inclined

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