The Importance Of Taste In Music

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Everyone has their own individual taste in music.

Your driving tunes might sound like a never-ending cat fight [pic: PD] to me, and my wind-down playlist might make you feel like you’re stuck on hold with customer service.

But no matter how different our musical tastes, I bet there are at least /some/ sounds we can agree on.

Namely, the worst, most skin-crawling, ear-covering, cringe-inducing ones ... like oh, fingernails on a chalkboard. [pic:Aldeasycampamentos ]

Gah. Just saying it gives me the willies.

And it turns out that there’s a good scientific reason why certain sounds set most people’s teeth on edge: human ears are extra sensitive to a particular range of pitches. [pic: PD]

… although where that sensitivity comes from is still up for debate.

In 1986 a group of
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In 2012 a study out of Newcastle University revisited the land of gross noises and subjected 16 people to 74 different sounds from running water to the scrape of knives on glass, asking them to rank them on a scale from pleasant to excruciating. [pic: PD]

Once again, the worst of the sounds fell in that bad-Hertz sweet spot, but more interesting than how the offensive sounds ranked was what they did to the peoples’ brains.

With the help of an MRI machine, researchers kept tabs on which brain parts lit up when assaulted with the more irritating sounds, finding a strong interaction between the auditory cortex, which processes sound, and the amygdala.

If you’re familiar with the amygdala, you know it’s part of the limbic system, [pic: BruceBlaus] the region of the brain that generates memories and emotions, including the amygdala’s specialties -- fear, anger, and negative reactions.

The images suggest that when we hear these cringe-worthy noises, the amygdala influences the auditory cortex’s response, heightening activity and touching off a negative emotional

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