Ep. 170: Unraveling the Enigma of Musical Anhedonia: The Brain, Predictions, and the Missing Joy of Music; with Psyche Loui, PhD

What is musical anhedonia?

Photo by Eren Li on Pexels

Dive into the intriguing world of musical anhedonia with Dr. Psyche Loui as she unveils the mysteries of why some people simply don’t find pleasure in music. Explore the brain’s intricate connections, the role of predictions, and discover the captivating stories of those who live without the universal language of melody.


If you love music, and if you’re listening to this podcast the odds are high that you do love music, you probably have heard music referred to as the universal language, and heard people say that EVERYbody loves music. Well, there actually is an exception to this rule; there are people who derive zero pleasure from music. Music just doesn’t really do anything for them. They are either completely neutral about music, or they may even actively dislike music. This population experiences what is called musical anhedonia. We are much more familiar with words describing the opposite of anhedonia – words like hedonism and hedonist that describe an addiction to pleasure. Joining us today to help us unravel yet another way our brains perceive and respond to music is psychology and neuroscience researcher Dr. Psyche Loui. Dr. Loui is a musician, Associate Professor of Creativity and Creative Practice at Northeastern University, and Director of the Music, Imaging, and Neural Dynamics Laboratory (MIND Lab).

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University


We discuss:

  • “Anhedonia” is the inability to feel pleasure from any experience. But some people specifically do not find music pleasurable. They find joy in other typically enjoyable experiences, including other art forms like visual art and nonmusical sounds (like laughter or applause). And this is the situation we refer to as “musical anhedonia.”
  • Causes of musical anhedonia
  •  How common is musical anhedonia (what percentage of the population experiences it)?
  • Differences in brain circuitry between those with and without musical anhedonia; neural mechanisms involved in musical pleasure and reward
  • Do these brain circuitry differences have any other implications besides perception of music?
  • Are there any interventions or cures for musical anhedonia?

Connect/Other Resources

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In-Episode Promo

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Dr. Loui says: Here is a video of music composed by mapping different frequency bands of my own EEG to musical pitches in different frequencies. The light show is algorithmically generated by a neural network model that takes acoustic input of music and simulates its corresponding brain activity.

Closing Words

Thank you so much to Dr. Loui for joining us today and for sharing that EEG song! You can also view a video of this song in the show notes that includes a light show that is algorithmically generated by a neural network model that takes acoustic input of music and simulates its corresponding brain activity.

All Enhance Life with Music episodes are evergreen; so check out the back catalogue for more ways that music can make your life better.

You can always connect with me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music.

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