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Music and l’amore go together like peanut butter and jelly
Neuroscientific researchers are currently investigating how and why the brain translates a structured sequence of sounds, such as music, into an enjoyable experience. Significant evidence has pointed towards the reward centers in the brain, which are activated by a signaling molecule called dopamine. At first blush, this is puzzling, because music does not provide any measurable survival value, as primary pleasures (such as food or sex) do. Why would music, an abstract pleasure, provide the brain with a reward using the same circuitry and signaling molecules (dopaminergic system) as more concrete pleasures?
In order to elucidate this question, one group of scientists tested 27 volunteers. A third of the test subjects were provided with medication that would enhance the level of brain dopamine, another third were administered a drug that blocked the dopamine in their brains and the final third were given placebo (sugar pill).
The experimenters determined that the hedonic experience caused by the test subjects listening to their favorite music was enhanced by dopamine and decreased when dopamine was blocked. Thus, the researchers determined that just like during sex, the release of dopamine at brain synapses (connections) had a causal role in musical pleasure (enjoying a piece of music) and motivation (being willing to spend money for it).
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