You like music. Music makes you feel good. Do you know why that is? A group of researchers from Montreal decided to find out what the effect of music is on your brain, and they determined, in their words, that:
Using the neurochemical specificity of [11C]raclopride positron emission tomography scanning, combined with psychophysiological measures of autonomic nervous system activity, we found endogenous dopamine release in the striatum at peak emotional arousal during music listening.
Okay, see, I dropped out of the pre-med track in college in my second semester and ended up with a Political Science degree, so that’s not in English for me. Let me see if I can explain. Your brain, the research indicates, releases the same dopamine when you hear a song you like as it does when you’re having sex, or eating, or taking drugs. The dopamine gives you a rush from music like it does with other pleasurable activities.
The study used instrumental music across various categories, and measured dopamine levels in a particular part of the brain against when subjects were listening to other, less favored music. They’ve found similar responses from showing people artwork they like, too. One explanation they think might apply is that the music enhances emotions. They’ll be looking into whether the dopamine levels shoot up from familiarity or from the response to the tunes, but for now, they know that music has that effect.
Our results provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first direct evidence that the intense pleasure experienced when listening to music is associated with dopamine activity in the mesolimbic reward system, including both dorsal and ventral striatum…. (M)usical stimuli, similar to other aesthetic stimuli, are perceived as being rewarding by the listener, rather than exerting a direct biological or chemical influence. Furthermore, the perception that results in a rewarding response is relatively specific to the listener, as there is large variability in musical preferences amongst individuals. Thus, through complex cognitive mechanisms, humans are able to obtain pleasure from music, a highly abstract reward consisting of just a sequence of tones unfolding over time, which is comparable to the pleasure experienced from more basic biological stimuli.
Yeah, what they said. Read the study yourself by clicking here.