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Musical Anhedonia

Author: Vanessa Salazar

Music, defined as “sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion,” by Oxford Languages is widely considered a source of connection for all despite their differences. Yet one group of people known as those who have musical anhedonia do not fit this generalization. Those relating to this condition find no pleasure in music. This is understood as the feeling when music that is not of your taste is played, it simply sparks nothing

Musical anhedonia is a rare neurological condition resulting from a potential defection in the brain. Consisting of 5% of people most patients are born with the condition but a small percentage of constituents have acquired it through brain damage like in the case of a stroke. Studies show that the condition is related to the emotional and auditory processes of only the musical reward pathways. AS when exposed to other forms of pleasure the brain sustains a standard set of responses. In addition, patients maintain the ability to perceive music and the emotions being presented. Therefore, the tendency to derive no pleasure from music is a product of structural connections in the auditory section of the superior tempora gyrus to the anterior insula (decision-making central). This is theorized to be due to the white matter connectivity, the myelinated highways of the brain. However, it is not currently understood if this accounts for typical variation in musical reward or whether it can be categorized as a distinct disorder but many studies suggest the former to be the case. Regardless the condition is ever changing in some cases it may be lifelong while in others it may be a symptom of an even greater disorder (ex. depression).

Scientists are currently expanding the research available on musical anhedonia delving deeper into how it is formed and its connections to other aspects of the brain. For instance, there has been an increase in the studies on Autism spectrum disorder and musical anhedonia as they both impact the reward center of the brain. Although a genuine connection may not exist this better helps understand the application of music therapy to autism and why it is not always effective.

Music is viewed as so valuable to so many based on 2 ideas. 1) Music has a way of connecting itself to listeners and relating to the private self. 2) Music is often a foundation for shared experiences. While a life not centered on music may seem unimaginable to some it is the reality to others. Life is certainly different but no less enjoyable. The effects of living with musical anhedonia vary based on the person most don't miss what they have never experienced but feel the absence of social connection in a world so focused on music. In conclusion, musical anhedonia is a rising topic of interest in neuropsychiatry and its knowledge is just beginning.

Work Cited

Belfi, A., Evans, E., Heskje, J., Bruss, J. and Tranel, D., 2017. Musical anhedonia after focal brain damage. Neuropsychologia, 97, pp.29-37.

Bernardin, F., Scarponi, L., Attademo, L., Hubain, P., Loas, G. and Devinsky, O., 2020. Musical anhedonia: a review. Journal of psychopathology.

Cowie, K., n.d. woman sitting silently next to people who are listening to music. [image] Available at: <>

Hesmondhalgh, D., 2013. Why music matters. John Wiley & Sons.

Bracci, A., 2019. What people with musical anhedonia might tell us about social interaction. [online] News @ Northeastern. Available at: <,people%20to%20not%20enjoy%20music.> [Accessed 1 October 2022].


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