This may come as no surprise to some of you who have been partying like rock stars since 1969, but for those of you interested in why it feels so damn good to do so, read on.
According to a recent study written about by Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the feeling of pleasure we get from listening to music shares its neurological ties with the feeling of pleasure we get from having sex or taking illicit drugs.
The specific neurological reaction behind the phenomenon of pleasure is linked to dopamine, a substance brain cells release to communicate with each other as part of our brain’s reward circuitry. Previous work had already suggested that dopamine may be released as a side effect of listening to music, but the new work, which scanned people’s brains as they listened to music, showed it happening directly.
The researchers performed brain scans on 8 volunteers who were chosen because they experienced chills from particular moments in music. The scientists studied how the brain handles both anticipation and arrival of a musical rush, as reported by Associated Press in The New York Times.
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. Functional MRI scans showed where and when those releases happened.
Dopamine surged in one part of the striatum during the 15 seconds leading up to a thrilling moment, and a different part when that musical highlight finally arrived.
The anticipation of pleasure is often just as thrilling as experiencing the peak moment of pleasure itself. Music provides us with life-changing moments, it affects our brains in a very systemic, necessary way. Studies such as these could prove on a scientific level why we are addicted to listening to good music. Dance on.
Close your eyes and give it a try.