Listening to rhythmic music reduces connectivity within the basal ganglia and the reward system
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Music can trigger emotional responses in a more direct way than any other stimulus. In particular, music-evoked pleasure involves brain networks that are part of the reward system. Furthermore, rhythmic music stimulates the basal ganglia and may trigger involuntary movements to the beat. In the present study, we created a continuously playing rhythmic, dance floor-like composition where the ambient noise from the MR scanner was incorporated as an additional instrument of rhythm. By treating this continuous stimulation paradigm as a variant of resting-state, the data was analyzed with stochastic dynamic causal modeling (sDCM), which was used for exploring functional dependencies and interactions between core areas of auditory perception, rhythm processing, and reward processing. The sDCM model was a fully connected model with the following areas: auditory cortex, putamen/pallidum, and ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens of both hemispheres. The resulting estimated parameters were compared to ordinary resting-state data, without an additional continuous stimulation. Besides reduced connectivity within the basal ganglia, the results indicated a reduced functional connectivity of the reward system, namely the right ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens from and to the basal ganglia and auditory network while listening to rhythmic music. In addition, the right ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens demonstrated also a change in its hemodynamic parameter, reflecting an increased level of activation. These converging results may indicate that the dopaminergic reward system reduces its functional connectivity and relinquishing its constraints on other areas when we listen to rhythmic music.