According to the latest research, there are three types of people in this world: those who like music, those who love music, and those who couldn't care less. Where you fall on that spectrum may have less to do with your playlist and more to do with the blood flow in your brain.
For many people, music elicits an emotional response. It can make them feel happy, sad, excited or angry depending on the tempo, rhythm and melody among other things (like lyrics.) But for others, there's no connection between the music in the air and how they feel.
The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people who don't like music may have less blood flow in the reward centers of their brain that correlate with auditory processing. To test this theory, researchers recruited 45 participants and split them into three equal groups depending on their feelings about music. The research team then used MRI imaging to see what was happening in the participants' brains when they listened to music and when they did other activities that might light up areas of the brain associated with rewards, such as gambling.
The participants who claimed to dislike music were the same people who had reduced blood flow in the reward areas of their brain while they listened to music. It wasn't that the reward centers were defective; those areas lit up when the participants gambled and won money. But they simply didn't have the same reaction when they listened to music. Researchers also found that the music haters had poor connectivity between the right auditory cortex and ventral striatum (in other words between their auditory system and their reward system.) On the flip side, participants who claimed to really love music had enhanced connectivity in this area.
This study shows that people who do not like music have a disconnect between the music they hear and the response it elicits in the brain. But what isn't clear is which came first — the dislike of music or the disconnect in the brain? That may be the subject of future studies as researchers try to tease out the link between music and emotion.