Listening to our favourite music evokes the same feelings as food, drugs and sex, according to a new study from the McGill University.
Listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with sex or great food.
The study found that dopamine release in response to music elicited "chills", changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature.
Combining PET and fMRI brain scans showed that dopamine release is greater for pleasurable versus neutral music, and that levels of release are correlated with the extent of emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings.
"These findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry in the brain," said Dr. Robert Zatorre, neuroscientist at The Neuro.
"Music is unique in the sense that we can measure all reward phases in real-time, as it progresses from baseline neutral to anticipation to peak pleasure all during scanning," said lead investigator Valorie Salimpoor, a graduate student in the Zatorre lab at The Neuro and McGill psychology program.
"It is generally a great challenge to examine dopamine activity during both the anticipation and the consumption phase of a reward. Both phases are captured together online by the PET scanner, which, combined with the temporal specificity of fMRI provides us with a unique assessment of the distinct contributions of each brain region at different time points."
The study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.