Valorie N. Salimpoor, Iris van den Bosch, Natasa Kovacevic, Anthony Randal McIntosh, Alain Dagher, Robert J. Zatorre
Science 12 April 2013: Vol. 340 no. 6129 pp. 216-219
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate neural processes when music gains reward value the first time it is heard. The degree of activity in the mesolimbic striatal regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, during music listening was the best predictor of the amount listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music in an auction paradigm. Importantly, the auditory cortices, amygdala, and ventromedial prefrontal regions showed increased activity during listening conditions requiring valuation, but did not predict reward value, which was instead predicted by increasing functional connectivity of these regions with the nucleus accumbens as the reward value increased. Thus, aesthetic rewards arise from the interaction between mesolimbic reward circuitry and cortical networks involved in perceptual analysis and valuation.