“Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is all my body needs.”
That rush you feel on hearing your favorite Carly Rae Jepsen song comes from the same chemical system in your brain that gives you an actual ecstasy rush, according to a new study.
The theory that pleasure gained from music is akin to having sex, taking MDMA or eating tasty food was tested out on 17 participants at Canada’s McGill University. The subjects were given naltrexone, a drug that temporarily blocks the brain’s pleasure-making opioid system. Opiates like heroin and the peptides found in cheese and other foods bind to the opioid receptors in the body and mimic natural feel-good brain opioids such as endorphins, only at a much greater level.
To test the musical pleasure theory, the researchers found a way to temporarily block the natural opioid substances produced when we are having a good time. The subjects were then played their favorite songs and their reactions were recorded, with all of them saying that they didn’t experience the same sense of pleasure they would normally expect to enjoy.
One participant said, “I know this is my favourite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does,” while another explained: “It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.”
“This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” the study’s senior author, cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, said of the study’s results, which were published in the Scientific Reports Journal.
Although plenty of research into the neural science behind music cognition has been undertaken over the years, relatively little is known about the neurochemical processes underlying musical pleasure. The researchers at McGill University said the ability of music to affect our emotions so strongly suggested humans have evolved over a long period to like it.
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