Music causes the brain to release the chemical dopamine, creating a pleasurable rush and even helping listeners to anticipate a particularly thrilling moment. Previous research suggested a role for dopamine~ a substance brain cells release to communicate with each other ~ but new data shows it affects the brain directly.
Scientists for years have known dopamine creates pleasurable sensations when people eat, have sex, or take drugs. According to the Associated Press:
The tie to dopamine helps explain why music is so widely popular across cultures, Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal write in an article posted online Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The study used only instrumental music, showing that voices aren't necessary to produce the dopamine response, Salimpoor said. It will take further work to study how voices might contribute to the pleasure effect, she said.
The researchers described brain-scanning experiments with eight volunteers who were chosen because they reliably felt chills from particular moments in some favorite pieces of music. That characteristic let the experimenters study how the brain handles both anticipation and arrival of a musical rush.
Results suggested that people who enjoy music but don't feel chills are also experiencing dopamine's effects, Zatorre said.
PET scans showed the participants' brains pumped out more dopamine in a region called the striatum when listening to favorite pieces of music than when hearing other pieces.
Click here for the article.