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Home » News » Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Turn On Brain’s Reward Pathways

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Turn On Brain’s Reward Pathways

The same reward pathways in the brain that are fired up by food, sex, and many illicit drugs — and even the anticipation of such highs — are triggered by pleasurable music as well, according to a study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.

Like those other pleasure cues as well, listening to music is associated with the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the results may offer insight into why music, which has no obvious survival value, is prevalent and significant across human society.

The research team measured dopamine release in response to music that elicited “chills,” changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature that were correlated with pleasurability ratings of the music. “Chills” or “musical frisson”  is a well established marker of peak emotional responses to music.

Using  novel combination of PET and fMRI brain imaging techniques, researchers found that dopamine release is greater for pleasurable versus neutral music, and that levels of release are correlated with the extent of emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings.

“These findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry in the brain,” said researcher Dr. Robert Zatorre.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that an abstract reward such as music can lead to dopamine release. Abstract rewards are largely cognitive in nature, and this study paves the way for future work to examine non-tangible rewards that humans consider rewarding for complex reasons.”

According to lead investigator and doctoral candidate Valorie Salimpoor, “Music is unique in the sense that we can measure all reward phases in real-time, as it progresses from baseline neutral to anticipation to peak pleasure all during scanning.”

“It is generally a great challenge to examine dopamine activity during both the anticipation and the consumption phase of a reward. Both phases are captured together online by the PET scanner, which, combined with the temporal specificity of fMRI provides us with a unique assessment of the distinct contributions of each brain region at different time points.”

The study also showed that two different brain circuits are involved in anticipation and experience, respectively: one linking to cognitive and motor systems, and hence prediction, the other to the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain.

Source: McGill University

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Turn On Brain’s Reward Pathways

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Turn On Brain’s Reward Pathways. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/13/sex-drugs-rock-n-roll-all-turn-on-brains-reward-pathways/22606.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.