New Ideas Light Up the Brain

Canadian researchers found that areas in the reward center of the brain become active when people hear a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoys what they hear, the stronger the connections are in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in Science.

From the BBC report:

To carry out the study, which took place at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, the scientists played 19 volunteers 60 excerpts of new music, based on their musical preferences. As they were listening to the 30-second-long tracks, they had to the opportunity to buy the ones they liked in a mocked up online music store. All of this was carried out while the participants were lying in an MRI machine. By analysing the scans, the scientists found that the nucleus accumbens was “lighting up” and depending on the level of activity, the researchers could predict whether the participant was likely to buy a song.

If the brain lights up to new songs, is it possible that it also lights up to new ideas?

A new method called CLARITY might give the answer. It allows researchers to see directly into optically
transparent whole brains or thick blocks of brain tissue. It was devised by Karl Deisseroth and a team at Stanford
University. “You can get right down to the fine structure
of the system while not losing the big picture,” says Deisseroth, who
adds that his group is in the process of rendering an entire human brain
transparent.  Here is how it works:

Being able to see and measure a person’s reaction to hearing a new idea could be of enormous value to innovation practitioners. Evaluating new ideas is a challenge because people struggle articulating what they like about an idea.  Now with advanced imaging, the value of a new idea could be judged more objectively by measuring how the evaluators brain reacts to it.

Heady stuff.