Media Production – Music as a Reward

For most, music is enjoyable. We turn on the radio on our way to work, we listen to music as we do homework, and play it at parties. However, there is a small percentage of the population that finds almost no pleasure in music. This condition is known as specific musical anhedonia.

In a recent study published in September, 2016, a team of researchers addressed the neurological differences that exist between those with music anhedonia and those without the condition. In order to investigate this, three group of 15 volunteers with different sensitivities to music were recruited for the study. A series of tests were run while the participants were listening to music to measure their response. These tests included skin conductance measurements and fMRI scans.

After completing these tests, the researchers found that participants with musical anhedonia rated the excerpts of music as less pleasurable and less emotionally arousing than the other participants. The fMRI scans were completed to measure the interactions in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). After these, the researchers found that participants with specific musical anhedonia showed less activity in the nucleus accumbens and corpus striatum (which plays a role in motivation and reward) than those with average music sensitivity. When presented with monetary rewards, however, the participants with musical anhedonia and participants without showed equal level of activity in the nucleus accumbens.

These finding have lead researchers to believe that multiple reward pathways are present in the brain. The activation of the pathways differs according to the reward presented. The researchers have also concluded that the level of connectivity between cortical regions of the brain determines the effects experienced by the body both physically and emotionally. These findings have allowed researchers to understand the variability that exists in neural pathways. It has also allowed for a better understanding of the cause and mechanism behind musical anhedonia. This could potentially be useful in developing a treatment for this condition now that the neural pathway is better understood.

After writing a new news article on the original research article, my perspective on journalists has definitely changed. Sometimes, journalists are blamed for twisting words to make research articles support the attention-grabbing claims they want to make. While this may be true for some, I think this is due to the fact that journalists are trying to summarize the words of a scientists to make their findings more accessible to the general public. Since the audience is mostly uninformed, the journalist cannot use any of the technical terms or go too deep into the science behind the conclusions. As I was trying to simplify the findings being discussed in the scientific article, the real scientific findings started to get lost or blurred in my efforts to simplify.

I did chose to leave some of the information out of the article. I mostly left out a lot of the information regarding the methods of the experiment. Many different tests and brain scans were performed. The terminology, procedures, and the statistical explanation of the results seemed too complex to include in an article for the general public. Although it may be useful to further understanding the study, information on methods is not necessarily critical to understanding the conclusions being made.

I have come to realize that journalists have very tough jobs since they are the mediators between scientists, experts, anyone that has something to say, and the audience. They make the information accessible to the public. Their job becomes tougher when they must “translate” information into everyday language while also making the article entertaining, attention grabbing, and worth reading without losing sight of the actual data being presented. Through the course of this project, I have learned that is important to look at the scientific information behind claims presented in the media. I have also learned that conveying research findings is important and must be done so in a form that the audience can easily understand the ideas, finding, discoveries, and claims being made.



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