There is a strong connection between the pleasure we get from music and dopamine production. A new study has found that listening to music increases dopamine levels by nine percent. Researchers have linked this to the anticipation of abstract rewards, and say it explains why listening to music has such a strong emotional and cultural value across human societies. While the exact mechanism is still unclear, this discovery may be important in determining how music enhances our lives.
For centuries, music has been associated with deep emotions in humans. It is one of the few stimuli that elicits a memorable reaction and memory. This chemical increases learning ability, attention, and emotional response. Scientists at McGill University have studied how listening to music releases dopamine in the brain. They found that music affected the same brain areas that are stimulated by sex, chocolate, and cocaine.
Music can increase levels of dopamine because it involves anticipation of pleasure. This neurotransmitter is crucial for reinforcing behavior. Music, for example, triggers the release of dopamine as we lock in with an artist. As the beat drops out, the melody begins to build tension, which creates a pleasurable experience for the listener. If music and art can trigger this reward, it may explain why we enjoy art and music.
While the science behind this link is still a work in progress, it is clear that the pleasure we derive from music can be linked to increased levels of dopamine in the brain. Although the connection between dopamine levels and music pleasure has not been thoroughly investigated, a recent paper describes experiments conducted with volunteers. They were given drugs that increased or decreased dopamine levels, and then given musical-pleasure tests.