Musical anhedonia: a review

Francesco Bernardini 1, Laura Scarponi 2, Luigi Attademo 3, Philippe Hubain 4, Gwenolé Loas 4, Orrin Devinsky 5

1 SPDC Pordenone, Department of Mental Health, AsFO Friuli Occidentale, Pordenone, Italy; 2 USC Psichiatria 1, Department of Mental Health, ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo, Italy; 3 SPDC Potenza, Department of Mental Health, ASP Basilicata, Potenza, Italy; 4 Erasme Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Bruxelles, Belgium; 5 NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Department of Neurology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA

Objectives

Anhedonia, or the inability or the loss of the capacity to experience pleasure, is a core feature of several psychiatric disorders. Different types of anhedonia have been described including social and physical anhedonia, appetitive or motivational anhedonia, consummatory and anticipatory anhedonia. Musical anhedonia is a rare condition where individuals derive no reward responses from musical experience.

Methods

We searched the PubMed electronic database for all articles with the search term “musical anhedonia”. 

Results

A final set of 12 articles (six original research articles and six clinical case reports) comprised the set we reviewed.

Conclusions

Individuals with specific musical anhedonia show normal responses to other types of reward, suggesting a specific deficit in musical reward pathways. Those individuals are not necessarily affected by psychiatric conditions, have normal musical perception capacities, and normal recognition of emotions depicted in music. Individual differences in the tendency to derive pleasure from music are associated with structural connections from auditory association areas in the superior temporal gyrus to the anterior insula. White matter connectivity may reflect individual differences in the normal variations of reward experiences in music. The moderate amount of heterogeneity between the reviewed studies is a limitation to the generalizability of our conclusions.

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