• Spain edition
 
Scientists discover why some of us 'hate' music
As many as 5 percent of people could suffer from specific musical anhedonia, or an inability to enjoy music. File photo: Bart Everson

Scientists discover why some of us 'hate' music

Published: 07 Mar 2014 11:22 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Mar 2014 11:22 GMT+01:00

Rock, jazz, flamenco, or classical music: for some people it all sounds like so much noise.

While most people react to music emotionally, and with an increased heart rate and by sweating more, a small group don't feel a thing.

And while a lack of ability to enjoy everyday activities is generally considered a sign of depression, there is nothing wrong with these people. Instead they are suffering from researchers are calling specific musical anhedonia.

That's the finding of a new study carried out by a global team of researchers headed up by the University of Barcelona and Catalonia's Bellvitge Institute of Biological Investigation and published in Current Biology.

"We wanted to look at music because its something that exists across cultures and doesn't have a biological function," study author Josep Marco told The Local.   

"Music is also something instinctual, and very direct, and it's often assumed that everyone actually likes music. But we wanted to find out if that was actually true." 

To test this idea, researchers first used a web questionnaire to identify people who might have this lack of feeling for music.

Study participants were then asked to listen to music chosen by other university students. Among the pieces of music chosen were Puccini's Nessun Dorma, the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, and the theme song from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Pavarotti sings the aria Nessun Dorma from the Puccini opera Turandot

While listening, volunteers had to press a button depending on whether they didn't like the piece of music much, they liked it a lot, or it left them cold. 

"We found that some people didn't respond at all to the music," Marco said.

Researchers then looked at whether people who didn't respond to music emotionally had a problem with their neural reward system.

But an experiment which measured excitement about earning money showed these 'non-musical' people had an increased heart rate and sweated more. In other words they were healthy.

The findings suggest music has its own pathways in the rewards system, the scientists said.

"The identification of these individuals could be very important to understanding the neural basis of music — that is, to understand how a set of notes (is) translated into emotions," Marco said in a separate statement.

Some 1 to 5 percent of people suffer from specific musical anhedonia, the researchers estimate.

"We've had a lot of emails from people since the study was published saying 'I've never liked music, and people have always told me it was strange,'" Marco told The Local.

"But this is not an illness, and it's not something that needs to be 'fixed.'"

Don't miss stories about Spain, join The Local on Facebook and Twitter.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Breaking
Catalan parliament okays independence vote law
The law was passed with 106 votes in favour and 28 against. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Catalan parliament okays independence vote law

Catalonia's regional parliament on Friday passed a law that its leaders say will authorise them to hold a non-binding "consultation" on independence from Spain on November 9. READ  

Spanish thief jailed for €640 ham heist
The man broke a car window to steal the ham but was stopped and arrested by police before he could eat any of it. Photo: Flickr/coche jamonero

Spanish thief jailed for €640 ham heist

A 27-year-old Spanish man has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay €7,960 ($10,237) compensation for stealing a cured ham worth €640 ($823) then assaulting two police officers. READ  

Hospital turns kids' MRI into space odyssey
HP has used the latest in latex printing to decorate the once bland and lifeless walls and equipment with huge images of stars, planets and astronauts. Photo: Sant Joan de Déu Hospital

Hospital turns kids' MRI into space odyssey

A Barcelona hospital has been able to reduce general anaesthetic among its child patients needing MRI scans by 18 percent thanks to an innovative new scheme that relaxes them. READ  

Madrid mayor appoints soon-to-retire cop chief
Botella's new appointment as chief inspector is retiring in October and has three weeks of holiday to take before then. Photo:FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Madrid mayor appoints soon-to-retire cop chief

Madrid mayor Ana Botella has been stood up by fire, police and ambulance personnel on her visit to their new joint headquarters because of her "disrespectful" appointment of a new police chief who has just weeks in the job before he retires. READ  

Spain welcomes Scots' 'no' but Catalans unfazed
A Catalan supporter of the 'Yes' campaign holds up a banner outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Photo: Lesley Martin/AFP

Spain welcomes Scots' 'no' but Catalans unfazed

The Spanish government on Friday welcomed Scotland's "No" vote on independence, but Catalans set on breaking away from Spain vowed to push on for their own ballot on self-rule. READ  

Malaga gang rape accuser: 'I made it up'
A "selfie" taken at the time of the alleged rape showed the girl relaxing with three of the men on a fairground ride safety mat. File photo: Luis Guerrero

Malaga gang rape accuser: 'I made it up'

A woman who accused five men of raping her in a Spanish fairground in August has admitted to a judge that the sex was consensual and that she invented the rape claim to prevent video footage of the sex being made public. READ  

Shark attacks boy on Spanish beach
Witnesses reported that the boy was bitten by a blue shark, a common Mediterranean species. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mark Conlin/NMFS

Shark attacks boy on Spanish beach

A 16-year-old boy playing in the sea at the popular Catalan tourist town of Salou this month needed thirty stitches after being bitten on the hand by a shark. READ  

Catalonia crisis
Madrid ready to fight as Catalonia 'legalizes' vote
Artur Mas will not call the November 9th referendum on self-rule immediately after the “consultation” bill is passed. Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP

Madrid ready to fight as Catalonia 'legalizes' vote

Spain’s central government will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Saturday or Sunday if Catalonia’s regional parliament approves the “consultation” law on the referendum on Friday, a move it hopes will make a possible independence vote more legal. READ  

Not happy: Pharrell Williams axes Spain tour
The singer and style icon's song 'Happy' topped the charts in Spain but fans will now miss out on the chance to hear it live. Photo: KEVIN WINTER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Not happy: Pharrell Williams axes Spain tour

The American star's promoter announced on Friday that concerts planned for Barcelona and Madrid in October have been axed due to scheduling issues. READ  

95 percent of Spaniards prefer texting to talking
The Facebook-owned WhatsApp was the favourite messaging app of 98 per cent of those surveyed. Photo: Flickr/Adam Fagen

95 percent of Spaniards prefer texting to talking

A mobile industry survey has revealed that the vast majority of Spaniards are no longer the talkative and up-close communicators they were once known to be. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Loud porn movie scares locals into calling cops
National
'We'll axe Catalan autonomy but won't send in tanks'
National
Spain's Thatcher square defaced by 'Brits'
National
Top 10: best Spanish movies of all time
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
National
Gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe
Society
Named: the best city to live in Spain
National
Catalonia's 'Diada': 5 things you need to know
Travel
Top ten amazing activities in Tenerife
National
Spain opens door to ban on burqas
Travel
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
Travel
Spain to reopen 'world's most dangerous walk': The Camino del Rey
National
'Catalonia could be the shock Spain needs'
National
Office slang: Top ten Spanish expressions
Sport
Think you know Spanish football? Try these amazing facts
International
Australia set to welcome young Spanish workers
Opinion
Is tourism destroying Barcelona?
Society
Fashion fail: Zara pulls plug on 'Holocaust shirt' for kids
National
Man hurt as friend swaps ice bucket for plane
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Politics
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
International
Spanish police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler
What's On
What's on in Spain: September
Society
Miss Spain comes out of closet on Instagram
Travel
Top ten: Spain's best natural swimming pools
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,666
jobs available