Scientists may be one step closer to understanding part of the mechanisms behind what makes a person enjoy art or music. A recent experiment involving trans-cranial magnetic (TMS) of the dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex (DLPFC) found that stimulation of a specific area of the brain leading to a dopaminergic reaction resulted in increased likelihood a person would enjoy music they were played. Inhibiting the dopaminergic response had the opposite effect. The experimenters tested the motivation to further hear the music by offering a chance to play the music they offered the subjects. Zapping the brain to affect the DLPFC resulted in greater subjective enjoyment and higher chance of the music being purchased for later listening.
(1) New TMS study from Zatorre’s lab show that stimulation over DLPFC enhances pleasure responses to music. Significantly, they also show that inhibition of the same area decrease pleasure responses. https://t.co/LVZSpAlofT
— Martin Skov (@mskov01) November 23, 2017
Though many psychoactive drugs for depression are related to the serotonergic system, some other theories regarding depression link some cases to issues with dopaminergic response. Dopamine is not only involved in the experience of pleasure, but also motivation and stimulation of the reward-feedback cycle. Dopamine imabalances may also be implicated in addiction, obesity and impulse control issues.
“Showing that this circuit can be manipulated so specifically in relation to music opens the door for many possible future applications in which the reward system may need to be up or down-regulated,” senior study author, Robert Zatorre said. This study may help us learn more about what factors go into appreciation of all sorts of aesthetic stimuli from art, to cinema to music. The study suggests the these dopaminergic circuits involved in learning and motivation may be closely tied to “the experience of musical pleasure.”
— Good Zing (@goodzing) November 28, 2017
TMS has already been explored as a possible alternative therapy for depression and some other conditions. In addition to that, there is a whole culture of biohackers who experiment with devices that provide cerebro-electrical stimulation. With the advent of AI controlled brain implants, the possibility of providing relief to many who deal with chemical imbalances becomes more probable. The ethical issues that arise, however, are certainly no quick study. Of course the potential of bringing peace to potentially millions dealing with mental illness makes the research potentially worthwhile, but what of the destructive potential? We are moving nearer to a completely “psycho-civilized society” to use a phrase coined by CIA sponsored mind control researcher Dr. Jose Delgado.
We’re entering a completely new realm of possibility. The potential for good is immense, but there are also immense ethical considerations that should be weighed before we possibly enter the type of biologically stratified society predicted by Aldous Huxley.