HOW’S YOUR DOPAMINE TODAY?

From the San Jose Mercury News, courtesy of faithful reader Dr. William Gallagher: 

STUDY: LOVE MUSIC?  THANK A SUBSTANCE IN YOUR BRAIN

By Malcolm Ritter

Associated Press (Posted: 01/09/2011)

NEW YORK — Whether it’s the Beatles or Beethoven, people like music for the same reason they like eating or having sex: It makes the brain release a chemical that gives pleasure, a new study says.

The brain substance is involved both in anticipating a particularly thrilling musical moment and in feeling the rush from it, researchers found.

Previous work already had suggested a role for dopamine, a substance brain cells release to communicate with each other.  But the new work, which scanned people’s brains as they listened to music, shows it happening directly.

While dopamine normally helps us feel the pleasure of eating or having sex, it also helps produce euphoria from illegal drugs.  It’s active in particular circuits of the brain.

The tie to dopamine helps explain why music is so widely popular across cultures, Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal write in an article posted online Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The study used only instrumental music, showing that voices aren’t necessary to produce the dopamine response, Salimpoor said.  It will take further work to study how voices might contribute to the effect, she said.

The researchers described brain-scanning experiments with eight volunteers who were chosen because they reliably felt chills from particular moments in some favorite pieces of music.  That characteristic let the experimenters study how the brain handles both anticipation and arrival of a musical rush.

Results suggested that people who enjoy music but don’t feel chills are also experiencing dopamine’s effects, Zatorre said.

PET scans showed 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.

“If music be the food of love, play on — or is it that love is the food of  music — or is it that food is the music of love?” 

Put another disc in the player and let me feel those chills!   That must be why we call it HOT JAZZ . . .

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5 responses to “HOW’S YOUR DOPAMINE TODAY?

  1. This may sound weird, but here I go anyway: THANK YOU, SCIENCE!

  2. I think the connection between Dopamine and our experiences of anything that we enjoy is really well established and I don’t doubt the direct connection with our enjoyment of favourite musical tracks and pieces.
    What a pity we can’t put this feeling, safely, in a ‘can’ so that we can enjoy it anywhere?! It would be great for wet Monday mornings and probably help many of us to get out of bed on time for once!
    Thanks for a very interesting article,
    Ian.

  3. THAT’S why I find Armstrong’s “West End Blues” positively orgasmic!

  4. So instead of “Insane in the Membrane,” one could have “Dopamine in the Striatum.” Pardon the pop culture reference.

  5. Heh, heh. Now I understand why, ehem, a good solo produces Viagra-like results (it’s happened, don’t laugh)

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