I’ve gone through countless music phases in the last 26 years of my life. I’ve screamed over boy bands, cried out my eyeliner for emo, donned a red baseball cap for Limp Bizkit, and even made “people say uhh!” like Master P and Silkk the Shocker asked back in 1997. Weirdly enough, while I’ve grown to really appreciate country music and its artists — especially after an enlightening trip to Nashville last summer — I haven’t yet truly fallen in love with the genre.
But it’s possible that all I need is a little “zap” to the brain to change that.
According to a new study published in a journal called Frontier in Behavioral Neuroscience (via io9), researchers have found the part of the brain that affects musical preference. They’ve even successfully made one 60-year-old man (who they refer to as “Mr. B.”) suddenly become an avid fan of Johnny Cash.
After receiving an electrical implant to his brain to counter his obsessive-compulsive disorder, Mr. B. — admittedly never quite the music lover — unexpectedly drew tremendous pleasure from the country legend’s songs, even going so far as to buying all of his CDs and DVDs. And, despite repeated listening, Mr. B.’s fondness for Cash’s catalog never diminished, as long as the electrical implant’s battery did not run out. His former musical taste returned only when stimulation of the implant subsided.
The case study’s abstract summarizes the experiment:
Music is among all cultures an important part of the live of most people. Music has psychological benefits and may generate strong emotional and physiological responses. Recently, neuroscientists have discovered that music influences the reward circuit of the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), even when no explicit reward is present. In this clinical case study, we describe a 60-year old patient who developed a sudden and distinct musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeted at the NAcc. This case report substantiates the assumption that the NAcc is involved in musical preference, based on the observation of direct stimulation of the accumbens with DBS. It also shows that accumbens DBS can change musical preference without habituation of its rewarding properties.
And excerpts explain Mr. B.’s phenomenon further:
Mr. B., had never been a huge music lover. His musical taste was broad, covering Dutch-language songs, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with a preference for the last named. While music did not occupy an important position in his live, his taste in music had always been very fixed and his preferences stayed the same throughout decades. On average, a half year after DBS surgery, Mr. B. stated that he was turning into a Johnny Cash fan. He had been listening to the radio, when he coincidentally heard “Ring of Fire” of the Country and Western singer and experienced that he was deeply affected by the song. Mr. B. started to listen to more songs of Johnny Cash and noticed that he was deeply moved by the raw and low-pitched voice of the singer. Moreover, he experienced that he preferred the performance of the songs in the Seventies and Eighties, due to the fullness of the voice of the older Johnny Cash in that period. …
From this moment on, Mr. B. kept listening simply and solely to Johnny Cash and bought all his CD’s and DVD’s.Advertisement
…although Mr. B. played almost simply and solely Johnny Cash songs for the following years, the music never starts to annoy him. From the first time Mr. B. heard a Johnny Cash song, the Dutch-language songs, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have been banned.
In just the last two weeks scientists have proven drummers are smarter than you and I, and now have found a way to manipulate human’s musical taste. Could it be that science is his behind Pharrell’s formulaic (yet highly successful) songwriting structure, too? Dun dun dun. The plot thickens.