A recent study has shown that listening to music causes the brain to release the same chemical as it would while eating or during sex.
The chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be used by brains cells to communicate, however this recent work showed that it was also present while people were listening to music. It is the same chemical that releases euphoria when illegal drugs are used.
The study’s authors Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal said that these findings helped to explain why music is so popular with most cultures around the world.
The eight subjects were chosen for the studies because they often felt chills from certain moments in their favourite pieces of music. Scans of the brain during these moments showed that there was more dopamine present than while they were listening to other pieces of music.
There was also a difference between the anticipation of a particular moment and the enjoyment of that moment. This is because anticipation is linked to the part of the brain that is involved with making predictions, whereas the area that reacts during the peak moment of the music is linked to emotion.
The subjects chose a wide range of music, ranging from classical to bagpipes, with the most popular pieces being Barbers Adagio for Strings, the second movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Debussy’s Claire De Lune.