When jazz legend John Coltrane first heard Charlie Parker play the saxophone, the music hit him "right between the eyes," he once said. According to neuroscientists, Coltrane was exactly right. When we hear music that we like, even for the first time, a part of the brain's reward system is activated, a new study has shown. The region, called the nucleus accumbens, determines how much we value the song—even predicting how much a person is willing to pay for the new track. "It's a lovely, lovely piece of research," says music psychologist David Huron of Ohio State University, Columbus, who was not involved in the study. The results will help scientists understand why humans attach so much value to abstract sequences of sound waves. "Music is one of those oddball things," he says. "It's not at all clear that it has any sort of survival value."