AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: music

Why We Love Music

We have all experienced it; hearing a new song that you really like, and rushing to your preferred digital music distributor to buy it. Researchers at Science Magazine have recently determined why we have this feeling. Hearing a new song activates a part of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens. This part of the brain is used to make predictions, which it tries to do with a new song as well. When it correctly predicts where the song will go, it stimulate the feeling of pleasure, given that it is located within the reward center of the brain. However, the nucleus accumbens doesn’t work alone. It has been found that it works in conjunction with three other parts of the brain: one looks for patterns, another compares the music to sounds previously heard and the last checks for emotional ties. According to Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, these four regions of the brain “work overtime” when listening to a new song. This development has been taken further, and now researchers believe that they can correctly predict what a person is willing to spend on a new song judging by the amount of activity that their nucleus accumbens displays. Aniruddh Patel of Tufts University commented that a music store such as Google Music and iTunes was “a very clever idea” that plays to “an old theory in music cognition”. Some researchers believe that these discoveries will lead to breakthroughs in speech and sound recognition in the future.

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Why do you enjoy music?

Have you ever wondered why that new song you enjoyed hearing that new song on the radio? This recent study shows that there are four regions of our brain responsible for pleasure while listening to music. The main region is called the nucleus accumbensand is located in the “reward center” of the brain. This region is responsible for making predictions and when the prediction your brain makes is correct it releases feel-good chemicals. Along with guessing correctly pleasant surprises also cause this region to release those same chemicals. The other three regions look for patterns, compare the sounds to other sounds you have heard before, and link emotional ties within the song. This study took the brain activity of 19 people who were listening to music in an MRI machine. They were then asked whether they would like to buy the song they were listening to and there was a direct correlation between how much a person was willing to spend on a song and how much the nucleus accumbens was stimulated. This can lead to further investigation on how the brain deciphers complex sounds such as speech.

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That Song’s Stuck In My Head!



Has there ever been a song that you just can’t seem to stop humming?

Well thats due to stuck song syndrome. This syndrome is caused by earworms in your brain. Not to worry though, these are not actual worms! New research by Simon Brown of Simon Fraser University is shedding some light on this phenomena. In the last five years, earworms have become the subject of peer-reviewed scientific studies. In 2008, Finnish researchers published a study that used the Internet to survey age, gender, personality and musical competence of 12,420 countrymen who experienced the endless loops in their heads. The study also included an analysis of 271 responses to online questionnaires from BBC sites as well as radio networks in the U.S. and Australia. The results demonstrated that almost any thought or sensory perception can hit the “on” switch. Hearing The Village People’s “YMCA” can get the mental loop rolling. Other head music may be induced by a memory from summer camp, the stresses of work or simply the boredom of school. So, next time you can’t get a song out of your head you can thank your earworms!

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