When the analysis was complete, some of the tunes were repeated, and the computer system had to guess which songs were chosen. When the computer was given a straightforward A or B choice, it picked the right one up to 85 percent of the time.
The experiment was then widened so the software system had to pick the right song out of ten possible options, using only the brain scan data of the listener to go off. This time, the computer got it right 74 percent of the time.
Among the other findings from the study was the way in which listeners didn’t really show a “hemispheric preference” for musical processing – there was no bias towards the left or right-hand side of the brain.
While this isn’t the first time scientists have tried to map songs against brain activity, this particular experiment does go into greater depth with a wider choice of songs and a more varied playlist than previous research did.
Further down the line, the researchers say, this kind of technique could be used to work out which hooks and melodies people like best, and why some people can really fall in love with a song while it leaves others cold.
The study is part of a wider effort to understand more about the effect music can have on us, with recent research looking at how certain music boosts productivity, and the way in which changes in brain activity can actually alter our taste in music.