The pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards like food, psychoactive drugs and money, reports a study in Nature Neuroscience. Valorie Salimpoor, Robert Zatorre and colleagues 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. Two converging techniques suggested that dopamine release was greater for pleasurable versus neutral music, and that levels of release were correlated with the extent of emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings. The authors found that even the anticipation of pleasurable music resulted in dopamine release. These results suggest why music is highly valued across human society.
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