Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem
Most people choose to listen to music that they prefer or ‘like’ such as classical, country or rock. Previous research has focused on how different characteristics of music (i.e., classical versus country) affect the brain. Yet, when listening to preferred music—regardless of the type—people report they often experience personal thoughts and memories. To date, understanding how this occurs in the brain has remained elusive. Using network science methods, we evaluated differences in functional brain connectivity when individuals listened to complete songs. We show that a circuit important for internally-focused thoughts, known as the default mode network, was most connected when listening to preferred music. We also show that listening to a favorite song alters the connectivity between auditory brain areas and the hippocampus, a region responsible for memory and social emotion consolidation. Given that musical preferences are uniquely individualized phenomena and that music can vary in acoustic complexity and the presence or absence of lyrics, the consistency of our results was unexpected. These findings may explain why comparable emotional and mental states can be experienced by people listening to music that differs as widely as Beethoven and Eminem. The neurobiological and neurorehabilitation implications of these results are discussed.