Musical anhedonia, or not everyone loves music
The sides of both unmanned spacecraft with the same name “Voyager” (eng. Voyager), launched in 1977, are attached identical round aluminum boxes with gold-plated disks, on which images are applied. The purpose of the Voyager mission is to present us to possible aliens and show the diversity of living beings and the culture of planet Earth.
“The spacecraft will turn on the phonogram if it encounters advanced civilizations in interstellar space. The moment of reproduction of this “bottle” in the cosmic ocean will become a very exciting and encouraging message about life on our planet, ”Karl Sagan was sure.
A special commission led by Sagan chose the contents of an audio CD for NASA. Karl and his team collected 115 images and a number of sounds, including: the sound of the surf and wind, thunder, birds singing, whales crying, people’s steps and laughter, greeting in 55 different languages, and also known as the universal communication tool – music. The Voyager Gold Record contains works by Bach (performed by Glenn Guld), Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Azerbaijani folk music, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry and many others.
Music is not only a universal language, but is also considered one of the most enjoyable stimuli known to man. The existence of music has been documented from prehistoric times in all cultures and on all continents. Nevertheless, recent studies prove that such a pleasure is not as universal as it seemed. And there are a lot of people who sound disgusted with the sounds of music: they do not have a favorite performer, and while listening to the radio, they will not stop in life on the wave where music plays. The psychological state, during which the enjoyment of music is impossible, recent studies have actually identified as “musical anhedonia.” For people prone to this state, music is something akin to boredom – this is at best. Or something annoying and distracting, so that they never feel any positive feelings while listening to music.
Professor José Marco Palares of the University of Barcelona is one of those who worked on the project on anhedonia. For him, identifying people suffering from this disorder is important as an understanding of the neural basis for music, as well as for understanding how the combination of notes is interpreted into emotions in the human mind.
Earlier studies have shown that most people have a genetic predisposition to perceive music, and popular songs and symphonies usually cause an emotional reaction. The effect of music on our behavior is dictated by the release of endorphins in the brain. These molecules are peptides produced by the nervous system and structurally similar to opiates. Endogenous opiates suppress the sensation of pain and create a feeling of euphoria and pleasure (like exogenous opioids found in heroin and morphine). In addition, naltrexone, an antagonist of opioid receptors, a drug aimed at treating alcohol and opiate addiction, causes reversible musical anhedonia, suppressing both positive and negative emotions. Endogenous opioids are crucial for experiencing both positive and negative emotions in music. Moreover, music causes pleasure like food, drugs and sex.
Researchers from Barcelona did a survey to find out exactly how different people relate to music. As a result of the survey, it became clear that both men and women, according to their statements, do not like music as much as other types of stimulants or emotional experiences. At first, the researchers decided that these people may have a disorder called “amusement” (loss of the ability to understand and play music), but then found out that everything is much more complicated. 30 volunteers were selected for the study and divided them into three groups of 10 people: the first ten said that she was enjoying listening to music, the other 10 said that the feeling was positive, but not intense – rather a moderate pleasure that fits into the standard music score . Another 10 people said that the music they were not particularly pleasant.
In the first part of the experiment, the volunteers had to listen to music and feel the pleasure they felt from the process. The music consisted of thirteen pieces selected by researchers and three more pieces selected by the volunteers themselves. The next task was to quickly answer the questions from the test. In previous experiments, we saw that both tasks stimulated the release of dopamine, which is an important part of the reward system. During the execution of these tasks, the researchers recorded some physiological reactions of the participants, such as heartbeat and sweating.
The group of Marco Palares found that people who do not particularly like the music did not show any physiological response to what they heard.