Teen brain response linked to pop songs' success: study

When listening to certain pop songs, teenagers' brains may offer clues about what will or won't be a megahit, US researchers said.

By studying the gray matter of adolescents using a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, or MRI scan, researchers found that activity in a region called the ventral striatum was linked to the popularity of the music.

The small study, conducted in 2006 at Emory University in Georgia, involved 27 youths aged 12 to 17 who were asked to listen to a selection of little known pop songs from the social networking site MySpace.

The adolescents underwent MRI scans while listening and were also asked to rate the songs for likeability.

Three years later, lead researcher Gregory Berns was watching an episode of the popular music show American Idol and recognized one of the songs that had featured in his study.

He began to wonder if his results may have been able to predict the pop song's success, so he revisited his research and compared it to the songs that had become popular in terms of sales from 2007 to 2010.

"It's not quite a hit predictor, but we did find a significant correlation between the brain responses in this group of adolescents and the number of songs that were ultimately sold," said Bern.

Positive brain responses could predict close to one-third of popular songs, while about 90 percent of songs that drew little activity in the brain would go on to flop, the study said.

How the teenagers rated the songs showed no link to the songs' future success.

The study was published in the June 8 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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