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Music Entertainment Science

Music Really Is Intoxicating, After All 174

jamie writes "Our reaction to the music that we love stimulates the flow of dopamine into certain sections of the brain, concludes a new study out of McGill University. The findings 'help to explain why music is of such high value across all human societies,' the scientists note."
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Music Really Is Intoxicating, After All

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  • by Captain Splendid ( 673276 ) * <> on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:03PM (#34918974) Homepage Journal
    Well, except to education budget departments, anyway. More sports!
    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:05PM (#34919006) Journal

      I guess Adrenaline is worth more than dopamine?

      • That begs an interesting question for the bio majors here: What are the relative merits of dopamine and adrenaline? Can they even be compared, or is it apple and oranges?
        • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:12PM (#34919078)

          Those are both lame, acetycholine is clearly the superior neurotransmitter.

          • 9 out of 10 nerve gas victims agree!
          • However, acetycholine drugs do not make the best recreative drugs:
            Antagonist make you hallucinate like a Schizophrenic, make your mouth dry, make your muscle extremely weak and they are totally devoid of euphoria see (BZ) [].
            Agonist make your memory works like your life depends on it but it also give you tremors, palpitation nausea and diarrhea , but when they have a correct profile they can be enjoyable (see nicotine).

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Actually, you can quite easily get a nice buzz by consuming a large amount of choline. Chances are you don't have any lecithin sitting around, but eat about 6 whole eggs, and you will probably notice a significant boost in your mood. I've eaten pounds of lecithin (not all at once) over the years.

              On a slightly more on topic note, try listening to music a day after using amphetamines. It will feel quite flat and meaningless. No doubt because of a lack of dopamine and/or downregulation of dopamine receptors.

          • Smoker?

        • by hashless ( 1833294 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:17PM (#34919146)
          Somewhat off-topic, but you mean that it "suggests a question". "Begging the question" is proving what is not self-evident by means of itself. See []
        • It's not really an apt comparison. They do different things. The biggest problem with it is that adrenaline isn't something that lasts very long in the body. It gets released and used over a short period of time and it's deeply related to stress.

          Dopamine and serotonin OTOH which are the other ones involved tend to be much more durable and much less prone to spikes than adrenaline is. I also don't think that what people view as a high from adrenaline is so much the adrenaline as the feeling when the stres
          • I dunno.

            I just figured Keith Richards has so many chemicals in his system back in the days of making some of my favorite music, that it just kinda came through to you from the speakers.

            Come to think of it...same thing for most of the classics...Jimmy Page with Zeppelin, Hendrix, Jim Morrison with the Doors....etc.

            I can now see that all of that stuff literally WAS intoxicating.

        • That begs an interesting question for the bio majors here

          It certainly doesn't for the English or Philosophy specialists.

      • It's not just adrenaline, it's serotonin and dopamine as well that you're referring to. Adrenaline just isn't present in the quantities necessary to explain the phenomenon without a little help from its friends.

        Adrenaline itself doesn't stay in the bloodstream very long, an adrenaline rush really doesn't last very long at all.
    • You can't WIN a concert, and that's the most important thing in life, right? Winning at any cost?
      • by radtea ( 464814 )

        You can't WIN a concert, and that's the most important thing in life, right? Winning at any cost?

        I have a psycho ex-g/f who once claimed to have "won" a conversation. There is nothing that a sufficiently insane person can't turn into a competition.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          You can't WIN a concert, and that's the most important thing in life, right? Winning at any cost?

          I have a psycho ex-g/f who once claimed to have "won" a conversation.

          A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

          • I have a psycho ex-g/f who once claimed to have "won" a conversation.

            I think I dated her sister. Trust me, you found the more sane of the two if it was just once. ;-)

        • I have a psycho ex-g/f

          I used to date a schizophrenic chick. Can you believe it, she dumped me for two-timing her! I remember it well, it was on a Sunday - and the following Wednesday.

      • There are band competitions, so yes, you can bring ribbons home from a concert.

        You can also "win" a concert. I've got two CDs at home; one's a great arrangement done okay, the other is a great arrangement done beautifully. We really "won" on the second one. We were all on our "A" game and performed a spectacular show.

        • I'll bet all the hot chicks in highschool were just dying to go out with you...

          As somebody who never thought it was worth hurting oneself to win a GAME, I find the emphasis our culture places on sports somewhat disturbing. In Beaverton, every high school hosts "youth league" teams for kids as young as 7, grooming them to eventually play for that high school (they must be from within the high school's attendance boundaries).
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I'll bet all the hot chicks in highschool were just dying to go out with you...

            The choir had a gender ratio of 20:1, so I was just fine in HS.

    • by NonUniqueNickname ( 1459477 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @04:00PM (#34919646)
      Sometimes music is worth less than a penny, sometimes it's worth $62,500 per song.
    • Remember:
      Online games bad; they teach competition, team-playing, and collaboration, and violence!
      Sports good; they teach competition, team-playing, collaboration, and violence!
  • I was just lising to the radio turned up.

  • Yup (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:05PM (#34919004) Homepage

    And then you have music like like mine [] (free to listen to/download, btw), which is designed to evoke imagery in people's minds. I created what I "heard" when I "saw" things, either in dreams or when using my imagination, but obviously that may differ from what other people see.

    It's really interesting, seeing how radically different two different people's reaction can be to the same sound.

    • I think that people who visualize things like music and words are likely wired differently than the rest. It'll be interesting to see if this result can be replicated with people who don't get the chills.

      Personally, I didn't used to really get work by folks like the Beatles, but as I learned and developed my ear, I got better and better at it.

      When I'm really on my game, the words just poor out of me directly from my brain to the paper without me really thinking a whole lot about it.
      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

        There's a short story I'm currently writing in a similar way. Basically, I put "Funeralopolis" from Electric Wizard on repeat, put on my headphones, turn it up REAL loud, close my eyes, and type what I see.

        Basically, I've been writing a massive battle filled with strange creatures that can't even be described as eldritch. It's been a super interesting experiment, one that I might continue once I finish the story.

        • "Sacred Heart", the first album by "Shakespeare's Sister", at full blast on my brand new portable CD player. (It was the first one that I'd seen for only a hundred bucks.)

          Its a friggin' miracle that I still have any hearing left because I played it loud enough to piss off the other people in the office.

          I played that thing so often that to this day all I need to hear is the opening bars of "Heroine" and I'm stuck frozen in time until I hear the last bar of the "You Made Me Come To This", the final track.


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      So I just listened to the theme from "Alien" while watching a slide show of you eating tacos. I'm not sure what imagery you were trying to invoke but all I pictured was some chubby guy in headphones sitting on the toilet for hours begging God to please make it stop.
  • Dead Heads and Phish Phanatics, beware! Oh, wait. You were already targeted.

    Bieber Fever maniacs, look out!

  • Hair splitting time....

    I don't like the use of the word "intoxicating" in this sense, because it technically means the ingestion of a foreign (or TOXIC) substance to give one a feeling of euphoria. Music is a non-physical way to get your body to release dopamine.

    Similarly I don't sex would be considered "intoxication" either.

    • Right. I think all these studies that show that show activities with emotional response X cause the corresponding neurotransmitters to flow are sort of pointless; if they didn't flow, there would be no emotional response. Mainly the findings would seem surprising to somebody who assumes emotions have no grounding in biology, i.e. they are magical. Although, I can see some value in proving you can objectively measure something that was previously subjective, or in pinning down the specific biological trig
    • I can see the argument to be made with music(it is arugably useful to draw the distinction between states produced by exogenous psychoactives and those produced by something stimulating the production of endogenous ones); but sex might actually be an edge case...

      Humans secret a vast grab bag(much of it not yet fully characterized) of assorted substances into their saliva, sweat, sexual secretions, and so forth. At least some of those substances they also almost certainly absorb through their mucus membra
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:44PM (#34919480) Journal

      To further and clarify some more on your point:

      1. The comparison to chemicals is misleading. There are some chemicals which are simply the brain's normal signals for stuff like "I like this", "this is fun", or basically, "ok, this is worth concentrating on, please continue doing it."

      Some drugs mimic the effect of such normal brain signals, by binding to the same receptors. E.g., THC binds to the same receptors as the canabinoids in the brain, so it creates the same euphoria, without it being actually a normal signal released by the brain. (Whereas nicotine merely inhibits the production of MAO-B, an enzime which neutralizes those canabinoids, so it makes you higher by prolonging the effect of the natural ones.)

      So basically it's a signal as normal as, dunno, the interrupts in a computer. You can probably find a reason to say it's wrong to simulate interrupts that never happened as part of the normal operation (e.g., wiring a front switch to the NMI trace on the mobo), but railing against a situation where they happened as intended (as this or the "OMG, games produce dopamine" hysteria) is fucking stupid.

      2. Dopamine is _not_ a reward signal, so it doesn't even produce such an euphoria.

      Dopamine is a motivation signal. Remember when I said that some signals basically say, "ok, this is worth concentrating on, please continue doing it"? That's what dopamine does.

      Just about anything that is interesting, captivating or fun by itself is producing dopamine. It's just the brain's way of signalling, "heeyy, I like this! please continue this or stay in the current situation, as apropriate."

      Even though dopamine does fire up when an unexpected reward happens (as you'd expect), and is a part of the reward and reinforcement functions, it is not itself a reward signal. It doesn't even seem to play any role in perceiving pleasure.

      3. A lot of bullshit around dopamine revolves around its use by the brain in such stuff as sex, or that some stimulants like cocaine also increase dopamine, or that very high levels are associated with manias and psychosis. You just need to drop a mention of one or more of those, and everyone is already ready to lap up "OMG, addiction" bullshit.

      In reality that's not very surprising. That sex would also fire up a signal that says "don't stop" when that's a reproduction (hence, natural selection) advantage, is actually as expected as it gets. If the animal were likely to just stop in the middle of sex and go "you know, this is actually quite boring, I'll go pounce on something instead", you'd soon have an evolutionary dead end. (Cue "you've met my ex?" wisecracks;) That it would fire up in conjunction with artificial reward signals, when its normal function _is_ to signal "ok, keep doing whatever gave you the reward", is again rather mundane, and rather uninteresting for its use the rest of the time. And that an abnormal level of it would lead to abnormal effects, again, is actually kind of the normal state for any hormone in the body.

      4. But at the end of the day, the fact still remains that it's a signal involved in desire/drive/motivation, and in acknowledging reward/pleasure. Whether you actually subscribe to the school of thought that it does or doesn't take part in actually experiencing that pleasure, the fact remains something has to already be pleasant or interesting to cause a dopamine shot.

      That some music you like or a video game or watching Star Trek or really whatever enjoyable activity produces a dopamine shot, just says that you do like it.

      Just about the only kind of life that would be free from such "intoxication" would be to never experience anything pleasant or any kind of drive/desire. Also, you'd probably have Parkinson. It's not the kind of existence almost anyone actually has, nor the kind of existence anyone would want.

      Well, except if it's those evil music/comics/games addicts. Then their having an existence which includes any fun is obviously eeeevil.

    • by rgviza ( 1303161 )

      Webster's 2b definition of intoxicate is "to excite or elate to the point of enthusiasm or frenzy".

      This definition has nothing to do with drugs or other toxic substances.

      If you don't like this definition, take it up with the word guys ;-)

  • Not suprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigsexyjoe ( 581721 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:16PM (#34919132)

    Don't get me wrong, it's worth researching, but it is safe to assume that anything you like doing (learning, masturbating, etc.) stimulates the production of dopamine.

    One thing I read that was interesting was a Steven Pinker where he said music simulates the effect of motion on your brain. So dissonant music sounds like scary falling. Nice music makes you feel like you are being softly rocked, etc. I don't know how much that idea has been tested.

    • by catbutt ( 469582 )
      Yeah, dopamine is essentially the brain's implementation of happiness/pleasure. It basically causes the brain to weight its circuitry to cause previously followed decision paths to be more likely to be followed in the future. You should expect that dopamine is produced whenever experiencing pleasure, so this article to me is a big "Duh!"
    • Thats cool idea. Actually, if you think about it, when we started moving faster music became faster too. Maybe, if we still had to walk all the time, we would appreciate classical music more.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      A more interesting question IMHO is why do some animals enjoy music and some don't. Is it just humans that react to music? My cat doesn't seem to pay any attention, in fact he is pretty good at ignoring anything that isn't edible or a toy or both.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:18PM (#34919174) Journal
    I, for one, believe that the protection of our precious children from this terrible gateway drug requires firm action:

    Sale of "listening paraphernalia" to those under the age of 21, or procurement of the same for those under 21 by those over, must be forbidden.

    All devices, such as personal computers, that have undeniable legitimate uses, but are at risk of misuse, must have the SNR of any audio-frequency outputs capped at a value that will discourage their misuse. Electronic signal generators and DACs in the 20-20,000Hz range shall be sold only to licensed electrical engineers, with appropriate permits.

    Any deliberate misuse of legal low-fidelity audio-frequency hardware in the production of "industrial" "electroglitch" or "ambient electronica" shall be a felony punishable under the Analog Waveforms Act.

    The FAA shall have 180 days to draft suitable exemptions under which microphone equipped blimps, zeppelins, and gliders may be able to freely patrol our skies and hunt down illicit "jam sessions" and recording operations.

    The production and importation of cheap, potent, illicit audio devices from the pacific rim shall be addressed by more aggressive customs controls, the training of op-amp sniffing dogs, and "Plan Taiwan": a collaboration between American and Taiwanese investigative and security forces to root out and destroy illicit "amp fabs" and consumer-electronics assembly labs.

    In deference to tradition, the sentence for possessing an audio-device with proletarian associations, such as a "tape player" or "ghetto blaster", shall be substantially stiffer than that for possessing an overpriced Bose system.
    • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:33PM (#34919366)

      I, for one, believe that the protection of our precious children from this terrible gateway drug requires firm action:

      If you look at the early hysteria around rock'n'roll this is pretty much what some people wanted back then. They thought rock music would lead to young people losing respect for the old, an explosion of sexual freedom, and stuff like that.

      Fortunately, they were right!

      • Off-topic, I now, but in regards to your sig, what is the point? Could you not say that any prison or jail of comparable size in the world also has at least one innocent person? It's also true we've released hundreds from GTMO, and many have returned to violence.
    • Finally! A way to shut down the RIAA!

      Oh, wait. Nevermind. I forgot who I was talking about.

  • In my experience I have found that instrumental music is the best for elevating my mood. I've been listening to Bach's violin concertos lately on the way to and from work. No matter how bad traffic might be, I cannot listen to that music and not be happy. The notes and the melody just hit the right parts of the brain to trigger those good feelings. I find that a lot of electronica music helps too. On the other hand, the typical music on the radio with lyrics and the same repetitive refrains and choruse

    • 've been listening to Bach's violin concertos lately on the way to and from work. No matter how bad traffic might be, I cannot listen to that music and not be happy.

      You are not alone, I recently purchased a new car that came with a three month satellite radio subscription and I immediately found that driving home listening to the symphony channel was INSANELY relaxing.

  • So... my parents were right about the evils of listening to that Rock'n'Roll after all?
  • why does music have that effect? It's nice to have science approve scientifically of what everyone already knew from experience for thousands of years, but it would be even nicer if science would finally tell us what makes us so crazy about music, or to put it in their terms, why music does stimulate the dopamine flow.

    • Well for starters, it's great for combining with just about everything else that's fun. Unless you're working at something that requires extremely high levels of concentration, music pretty much combines with almost any other activity you can think of. Maybe because the music is integrated so well into all the other fun things we do, we automatically associate it with a happy feeling more than a lot of other activities.
  • While the speaker towers at a rock concert can give a very visceral musical experience, to me, the most effective whole body musical experience comes from standing close to a pipe organ in the midst of a large chorus. Mozart's Requiem is a good choice.
    • With a pipe organ, the whole building is part of the instrument. I'd like to conduct a world-wide search for the best church in which to listen to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, the definitive work for the organ. Too bad E. Power Biggs is no longer around to play it.
      • My son performed the Toccata part this Fall. Many runs to church for him to practice. Definitely worth the effort.
      • Slightly OT but in the past few years they were renovating the organ at a nearby medium-to-large church (in UK terms). In the process they unearthed almost an entire WING of the building that you simply couldn't get in when the organ was installed. Suddenly the word "organ" in relation to the building as a whole seems fitting.

    • by treeves ( 963993 )

      Try listening to the finale of Mahler's Second Symphony ("Resurrection') with the volume cranked up on a good system. That should blow you away.

  • Why people like Justin Bieber

  • Kids are getting high listening to Music?

    My, God... Kids listen to music in school, in your home, and even at church.

    I even heard that Kids are downloading music from internet websites.

    What are we going to do to put an end to this latest threat to our children?!

  • Maybe we will be able to settle this myth once and for all: []

  • No wonder I feel stoned after spending a couple of hours listening to the Blue Öyster Cult.
    • That is most likely the result of conditioning due to years of smoking the jibba; I have a buddy that would start tripping everytime he listen to Pink Floyd because he used to drop large amount of acid to Pink Floyd

      • But I've never smoked weed.
      • To counter I remember listening to The Orb Live 93 for the first time. That's 2 hours of mind bending right there. The guy who supplied it was watching and commented how totally stoned I seemed afterwards. Fortunately he didn't then go on to charge me £20 a hit

  • Nibler: You are the last hope of the universe.
    Fry: So I really am important? How I feel when I'm drunk is correct?
    Nibbler: Yes - except the Dave Matthews Band doesn't rock.

Marriage is the sole cause of divorce.