Scientists at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute played 60 30-second excerpts of new music to volunteers while they lay in an MRI machine, and gave them the offer to buy songs they liked in a fictional online music store. By analyzing the resulting scans done while the participants were listening, the team was able to effectively predict which song a volunteer was likely to buy based on activity around a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the “reward center.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Researcher Valorie Salimpoor says that the tests illustrate a new direction for neuroscience: “[We’re] trying to understand what people are thinking, and inferring their thoughts and motivations and eventually their behaviour through their brain activity.” The nucleus accumbens also interacted with the area of the brain that stores information based on previously heard music, which is unique for everyone “because we’ve all heard different music in the past.” Now that they can predict whether a person likes a song before they even say they do, the team wants to find out if the brain can reveal why people like certain kinds of music better than others.
Combining years of neurological research and mindfulness techniques, Dr. Heather Berlin helps us better understand how the body’s most complex organ can easily be misled into negative thinking - and how we can stop that from happening.