Dissociation between musical and monetary reward responses in specific musical anhedonia

Curr Biol. 2014 Mar 17;24(6):699-704. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.068. Epub 2014 Mar 6.


Music has been present in all human cultures since prehistory [1, 2], although it is not associated with any apparent biological advantages (such as food, sex, etc.) or utility value (such as money). Nevertheless, music is ranked among the highest sources of pleasure [3], and its important role in our society and culture has led to the assumption that the ability of music to induce pleasure is universal. However, this assumption has never been empirically tested. In the present report, we identified a group of healthy individuals without depression or generalized anhedonia who showed reduced behavioral pleasure ratings and no autonomic responses to pleasurable music, despite having normal musical perception capacities. These persons showed preserved behavioral and physiological responses to monetary reward, indicating that the low sensitivity to music was not due to a global hypofunction of the reward network. These results point to the existence of specific musical anhedonia and suggest that there may be individual differences in access to the reward system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anhedonia / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Pleasure / physiology
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult