Musical pleasure

Drugs, sex, and food aren't the only sources of pleasure -- music activates the brain's reward circuitry as well

Megan Scudellari
Jan 8, 2011
Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll have more in common that we thought. A new study, published online today (January 9) in linkurl:Nature Neuroscience,;http://www.nature.com/neuro/index.html demonstrates for the first time that music causes the release of dopamine in the brain, just like other pleasurable stimuli, such as food, drugs, and sex.
Listening to intensely pleasurable music releases dopamine in the brain. Credit: Peter Finnie
Even the anticipation of a pleasurable musical crescendo results in the release of dopamine, the authors report. "This is what music theorists have been telling us for centuries," said linkurl:Robert Zatorre,;http://www.zlab.mcgill.ca/home.html a neuropsychologist at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, and senior author on the study -- that a resolution of dissonance or the crescendo of a song emotionally affects the listener. To assess the biological mechanism behind a pleasurable musical experience, the team conducted PET and fMRI brain scans while measuring the "chills" -- aka changes in...
hereSalimpoor, V.N., et al., "Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music," Nat Neuro, doi:10.1038/nn.2726.



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