Dopamine modulations of reward-driven music memory consolidation

Laura Ferreri, Ernest Mas-Herrero, Gemma Cardona, Robert J. Zatorre, Rosa M. Antonijoan, Marta Valle, Jordi Riba, Pablo Ripollés, Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music listening provides one of the most significant abstract rewards for humans because hearing music activates the dopaminergic mesolimbic system. Given the strong link between reward, dopamine, and memory, we aimed here to investigate the hypothesis that dopamine-dependent musical reward can drive memory improvements. Twenty-nine healthy participants of both sexes provided reward ratings of unfamiliar musical excerpts that had to be remembered following a consolidation period under three separate conditions: after the ingestion of a dopaminergic antagonist, a dopaminergic precursor, or a placebo. Linear mixed modeling of the intervention data showed that the effect of reward on memory—i.e., the greater the reward experienced while listening to the musical excerpts, the better the memory recollection performance—was modulated by both dopaminergic signaling and individual differences in reward processing. Greater pleasure was consistently associated with better memory outcomes in participants with high sensitivity to musical reward, but this effect was lost when dopaminergic signaling was disrupted in participants with average or low musical hedonia. Our work highlights the flexibility of the human dopaminergic system, which can enhance memory formation not only through explicit and/or primary reinforcers but also via abstract and aesthetic rewards such as music.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • dopamine
  • memory
  • music
  • pleasure
  • reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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