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The Pleasure Derived from Music: Chills, Thrills, and Dopamine

>> Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anyone who has read Potspoon! for any length of time can attest that I am kind of a music junkie. I love making it, dancing to it, watching it, listening to it. Watching someone passionately sing their heart out is one of the most spiritual (to me) moments that one can be a part of. The chills that you get when the music does what it is supposed to is one of my favorite experiences. Making music is a very intimate thing for a lot of people and when everything just "clicks" between a group of musicians, the air feels alive with static.

That feeling, it appears, is in part due to the dopamine being released in anticipation of and during a pleasurable experience. It's like a little reward from your brain. In a study done by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, responses were measured by the "chill" factor, skin conductance, breathing, heart rate, and temperature. These were all correlated to music pleasurability ratings. They even did brain imaging in real time to see how the brain responds to peaks and whether it coincided to the peaks shown physically. The findings were pretty outstanding in that they could see baseline neutral readings and peaks all in synch with music.

The fact that dopamine is released for something abstract like music may prove to be beneficial. Dopamine is usually a reward for food, sex, drugs, and other such tangibles. This is an amazing step proving that non-tangible experiences can still be rewarded by our body. It sort of reminds me of  A Clockwork Orange and how Adam was calmed and soothed (or went crazy and froze depending on your take) when Beethoven was played. Ahhh.... music!

You can read more about the study and the brain analyses and imaging they did at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital website.

Fuzzy Picture of Music Equipment teefed from friends Facebook page.


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