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Why does music feel so good?

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Published: 12 Apr 2013

Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in the journal Science. Dr Valorie Salimpoor, from the Rotman Research Institute, in Toronto [formerly of The Neuro], told the BBC's Science in Action programme: "We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward. "But music is abstract: It's not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food and you are really excited about it because you are going to eat it - or the same thing applies to sex or money - that's when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens. "But what's cool is that you're anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract - and that's the next sound that is coming up." To carry out the study, which took place at the Montreal Neurological Centre at McGill University, the scientists played 19 volunteers 60 excerpts of new music, based on their musical preferences.

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