The Scientific Power of Music


Whether its Mozart, Joni Mitchell, Adele or newcomers like Frank Ocean, music is powerful and has existed in all cultures throughout history. But why do humans find music so addictive and pleasurable? At its core, music is the combination of audio frequencies and intricate patterns floating through the air and clashing together in your ear. Much like your eyes process light, your ears process waves of sound and trigger a state of excitement and sometimes pleasure in your brain. Humans experience pleasure from many stimulants such as food, sex and drugs. But because many of these stimulants aren`t necessary for human survival, the body has created a system in which it rewards you for achieving them. What`s really happening is a release of a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical responsible for making you feel good. When dopamine is released following a reward such as delicious meal or winning the lottery, the neurotransmitter causes a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. Drugs, such as cocaine, take advantage of this pathway by increasing the amount of dopamine, or rather, preventing its removal, causing continual stimulation of your neurons, which creates intense moments of pleasure. Music has the ability to create a state of arousal, causing pupils to dilate, blood pressure to rise, and the brain to fire in auditory, movement and emotional regions. And even though music does not have a direct survival benefit, this emotional reaction causes a release of the feel good chemical dopamine. Though the exact evolutionary reasoning is unclear, the amazing fact remains; music chemically alters our body and makes us feel great. And in the same way that a drug induced dopamine surge leaves you craving more, music becomes addictive. The dopamine tells your body it was rewarded and creates the desire to seek out more. Even though music enjoyment is entirely subjective and intertwined with cultural and personal experience, the chemical effects remain consistent amongst the human race, a perfectly natural drug of happiness. Got a burning question you want answered? Ask it in the comments or on facebook and twitter. And subscribe for more weekly science videos.