Music Keeps Us Coming Back for More

I actually referenced this study for my Psychology of Emotions term paper last year.

Food is good. Music is good. Money is good.  Have you ever wondered what all these have in common?

They keep us coming back for more.

Dr. Valorie Salimpoor et. al (2010) decided to figure out how this works by hooking up her willing vict-I mean, participants to a couple of fancy gizmoes, one being something called the Positron Electron Tomography (PET) scanner, which is used to measure neurochemical activity in the brain, and another contraption called a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scanner, used to measure blood flow in the brain. During the study, the participants measured the amounts of emotional reactions they were heaving (chills, and such) via a set of questionnaires based on the music they were listening to, which either had the emotional impact of an atom bomb climaxing, or was as enjoyable as watching paint dry.

They found that a part of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens (NaCC), which is the brain’s pleasure area, lit up when its owner listened to pleasurable music: this was marked by an increased flow of dopamine, which is a fancy name for pleasure-goo. Dopamine is the chemical that flows in your brain when exposed to something pleasurable, and when we partake in enjoyable activities, is what keeps us coming back for more. In addition to the NaCC, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS. This is responsible for bodily reactions such as sweating, heart rate, and and breathing) also exhibited activation in the form of  participants increased’ heart and respiration rates. Furthermore, the NaCC was also found to have been interacting with another brain area called the auditory cortical stores, which functions as a sort of warehouse for previously-heard sound information.

This, to me, is interesting for a number of reasons: as a musician, musicophile and as a hopeful neuroscientist, this study, and others like it, show that science and the arts are not mutually exclusive in at least one or more respect; more importantly, to me at least, the inner workings of music processing are further revealed, which could eventually cascade into further understanding of the brain wholesale. There is also the obvious point of science and technology advancing, and-others may find this part interesting -further studies along these lines could provide us with a good lead on reading people’s minds, or at least the next-best thing.

Welcome to the future, ladies and gentlemen! Brought to you by your trusted friend in science! To conclude this, here’s a piece of music that elicits the very same chills and rushes I’ve mentioned every time I listen to it: Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115

Y’all take care now


Salimpoor, V., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, J. (2010). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience14(2), 257-264.


About optimistthepessimist

Always in transit.
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7 Responses to Music Keeps Us Coming Back for More

  1. appleseed says:

    First article? Check!
    On the right track my friend keep it up!
    I personally love articles about music… Maybe have a weekly article about suggested pieces to listen to?

  2. Ilija says:

    Bravo brate, odlicno 🙂

  3. Pingback: Music Keeps Us Coming Back for More | Bits and Pieces

  4. Great to see you starting out blogging! I hope you enjoy putting into words your thoughts about the things you have passion for. I wish you much success. And thank you for stopping by my blog.

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