They say music is as addictive to the brain as sex and drugs, and have you ever wondered why you feel ‘different’ when listening to music? How sometimes you get chills, sometimes are moved to tears, or just feel plain happy?
The answer – dopamine.
Scientists at McGill University in Montreal theorised that our brains release dopamine when listening to music we love in the same way good food, sex, or even taking certain types of drugs do.
The scientists tested the theory on eight music lovers, using mostly classical music, but with some, jazz, rock, and pop mixed in (all music the participants knew and already liked). 15 minutes into the test, the participants were injected with a radioactive substance that binds to dopamine receptors. Using a PET scanner the scientists could then see if the radioactive substance circulated through their blood, which would mean that they’d released a lot of dopamine (whereas if it ‘clung’ to the dopamine receptors, it would mean they hadn’t).
The PET scan also showed that the most dopamine was released in the region of the brain called the striatum region, and using a functional MRI showed when and where those releases happened.
This test shows how important music is to our daily lives, and why music has always been so hugely important in every culture throughout the world past, present and indeed, future, and maybe even why we prefer some music to others.