Neuroimaging studies have shown that, despite the abstractness of music, it may mimic biologically rewarding stimuli (e.g. food) in its ability to engage the brain’s reward circuity. However, due to the lack of research comparing music and other types of reward, it is unclear to what extent the recruitment of reward-related structures overlaps among domains. To achieve this goal, we performed a coordinate-based meta-analysis of 38 neuroimaging studies (703 subjects) comparing the brain responses specifically to music and food-induced pleasure. Both engaged a common set of brain regions including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum, and insula. Yet, comparative analyses indicated a partial dissociation in the engagement of the reward circuitry as a function of the type of reward, as well as additional reward type-specific activations in brain regions related to perception, sensory processing, and learning. These results support the idea that hedonic reactions rely on the engagement of a common reward network, yet through specific routes of access depending on the modality and nature of the reward.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience