Scientists prove difference between expected/actual outcomes cause reward response
If you love it when a musician strikes that unexpected but perfect chord, you are not alone. New research shows the musically unexpected activates the reward centre of our brains, and makes us learn about the music as we listen.
Researchers led by Ben Gold, a PhD candidate in the lab of Robert Zatorre at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital), of McGill University, put 20 volunteers through a musical reward learning task. Each participant chose a colour, then a direction. Each choice came with a certain probability of leading to either a consonant, pleasurable, musical excerpt or a dissonant, unpleasurable one. Over time the subjects learned which choices were more likely to produce both consonant and dissonant music. The test was designed to create an expectation of either musical enjoyment or dissatisfaction. Subjects performed this task while their brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).