Whether streaming an upcoming album off All Songs Considered or listening to a preview on iTunes, we all come to that pivotal moment where we decide whether to purchase it.
Well, according to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, it all comes down to brain activity in the nucleus accumbens. That's the part of the brain involved with the formation of rewarding expectations. Here's what s lead investigator Dr. Valorie Salimpoor had to say about it:
The study, as you might imagine, involved scanning the brains of test subjects browsing an iTunes-like interface of purchasable music. You can check out the music samples they used right here and it's a nice mix of artists that includes the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Jonsi, Trentemøller and Cut Copy.
It's not all about the nucleus accumbens, however. It interacts with the auditory cortex, which stores information about the sounds that fill our lives. The researchers found that the more rewarding the music sample, the more cross-talk between these two regions. Plus the nucleus accumbens also chatted up parts of the brain involved in sequencing, pattern recognition and emotional/reward value to stimuli.
So, in a sense, we love the music that completes us -- that finishes our sandwiches thoughts for us and meets our emotional expectations of pattern and reward.