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Music Evokes Emotion

Posted Jan 22 2011 12:38am
Posted on 2011-01-21 06:00:00 in Mental Health |
Music Evokes Emotion

Music maintains a significant role across human society, but the biochemical basis underlying the universal emotional response to listening to music has remained elusive.  Robert Zattore, from McGill University (Canada), and colleagues have found that the experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a pleasure-promoting neurotransmitter in the brain. Using a novel combination of imaging techniques, the study also revealed that the anticipation and experience of listening to pleasurable music induces release of dopamine. The researchers 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, and hence the emotional part of the brain. These two phases also map onto related concepts in music, such as tension and resolution. Explaining that:  “Music, an abstract stimulus, can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving, similar to tangible rewards that involve the striatal dopaminergic system,” the team concludes that: “Our results help to explain why music is of such high value across all human societies.”

Valorie N Salimpoor, Mitchel Benovoy, Kevin Larcher, Alain Dagher, Robert J Zatorre.  “Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music.”  Nature Neuroscience, 9 January 2011; doi:10.1038/nn.2726.


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