News Release 

The brain's favorite type of music

Musical preferences might be rooted in how humans learn

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Predictability and uncertainty in the pleasure of music: a reward for learning? view more 

Credit: Gold et al., JNeurosci (2019)

People prefer songs with only a moderate amount of uncertainty and unpredictability, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

Scientists have long struggled to understand why activities of little apparent evolutionary value, like listening to music, bring so much pleasure. Previous studies have linked listening to and making predictions about music with activation in reward centers of the brain but have produced conflicting results on how musical predictions and surprises relate to pleasure.

Gold et al. employed a mathematical model to determine the predictability and uncertainty of musical fragments and then asked listeners to rate how much they liked the songs.

Listeners preferred songs of medium complexity, such as those that counterbalanced uncertain expectations with ultimately predictable musical events. Conversely, songs affording more certain expectations could contain more surprising musical events and still be liked.

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Manuscript title: Predictability and Uncertainty in the Pleasure of Music: A Reward for Learning?

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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