Depression May Signal Brain to Ignore Pleasure

For music lovers, there aren’t many experiences as pleasing as listening in on a favorite piece of music. Most people report feeling happy or satisfied when hearing their favorite band or instrumentalist, but a recently performed study has suggested that people with symptoms of depression may miss out on this basic pleasure, as well as most others. Analyzing the brains of a number of participants, a team from the Lawson Health Research institute sought to explore the possible effects of depression on the pleasure centers of the mind responsible in many cases for making people feel good or rewarded.

Attaching participants to MRI equipment, the research team asked each subject in two distinct groups, one with associations with clinical depression, and others without, to list their favorite music. The researchers then exposed the participants to this music, along with various selections that were not included in their favorites. Though the participants’ reported feelings about hearing the music varied, the brain activity images told a separate story. Those with feelings of depression showed a significantly decreased amount of brain activity in areas associated with the reception of pleasure in contrast to the control group participants.

The study sheds light on the idea that traditional methods of motivating and rewarding may not be ideal for people with feelings of depression. Adding to the prominent call for greater research into more effective treatment for those confronting this common challenge, the study may prompt many more investigations into the potential of new mechanisms and systems to reach therapy clients with greater ease. As a growing number of people throughout the world report feeling depressed, the search for better treatment in therapy and in the doctor’s office is gaining great momentum.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Sarah

    August 31st, 2009 at 2:41 PM

    I can understand not enjoying most things as much when I’m depressed, but music? I think it’s just the opposite, for me at least. Music is the only enjoyable thing sometimes when I’m very depressed.

  • Susan

    September 1st, 2009 at 3:58 AM

    I’ve actually seen this in my roomie in college. She is a very negative person and tried committing suicide recently. The counselor on campus diagnosed her with chronic depression. She could never lighten up to good music, a good joke, movie whatever.

  • Julia

    September 1st, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    I know that when I went through my own bout with depression nothing could cheer me, not even my favorite things that I had always enjoyed in the past. When my Starbucks treat that I allow myself every weekend and my trip to Barnes and Noble could not even rouse me from the bed that is when my boyfriend finally recognized that there really was something wrong!

  • Roy

    September 2nd, 2009 at 3:38 AM

    being down and out definitely is a bad thing as it eats into everything one does. Not surprising that music doesnt help

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