For a music lover, hearing someone say, “Music doesn’t really do it for me” is like hearing them say, “I’m just not that into breathing.” But a new study conducted at the University of Barcelona shows that these auditory oddities aren’t lying, nor are they being bashful about their true musical preferences. The condition is real, and it’s also got a name: specific musical anhedonia.
The research was conducted by cognitive neuroscientist Josep Marco-Pallerés, who studied thirty otherwise-healthy college students who identified themselves as “very sensitive,” “moderately sensitive,” or “not sensitive at all” to music. Each student was asked to bring in their favorite music from home—a few in the latter group did not own any music at all and had to borrow some from a family member—and then had their heart rate and sweat levels monitored while listening to said music. The result? The same group who claimed to experience no pleasure from music, indeed, had no autonomic response while listening to the music they themselves brought in. And while they could identify whether a song was supposed to be happy or sad, they felt no corresponding emotion when listening to it.
On the other hand, when Marco-Pallerés asked the students to play a game where they could also win a small amount of money, suddenly every single student’s heart started racing. So if you’re dating someone who’s indifferent to your painstakingly crafted mix-tapes, save yourself the effort and buy them a lottery ticket instead. Everyone loves that, apparently.