Thursday, July 26, 2007

Music vibes as good as sex and food

Listening to music releases the same "feelgood" chemicals as eating and having sex, researchers have found.

The neuroscientist and former rock music producer Prof Daniel Levitin said music activates the brain area responsible for feeling pleasure, excitement and satisfaction. Research shows that music has specific effects on the body's physiology Prof Levitin, an associate professor of psychology at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada, suggests that understanding how different types of music affects the body can help people choose songs or bands that could help them achieve tasks or goals. He found the brain of someone listening to music reacts in a similar way to that of a gambler when winning a bet, a skydiver about to leap out of a plane or someone who has just taken drugs.

Someone listening to songs or tunes they enjoy experiences a release of dopamine, the hormone linked to reward and happiness. This association has led Prof Levitin, who worked with Stevie Wonder and the Grateful Dead, to claim to have discovered the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" centre of the brain after collating research to be published this year.

He said: "The sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll scenario proves that music is at the heart of creating moods and reactions. Research shows that music has specific effects on the body's physiology, including heart rate, respiration, sweating, and mental activity. Music is effective at moderating arousal levels, concentration, and helping to regulate mood through its action on the brain's natural chemistry. People who can have music follow them around during their daily lives can use these properties of music effectively, to form a soundtrack for their day and their lives."

Music has been shown to cause activity in brain circuits associated with physical reactions, such as sweating, sexual arousal, and "shivers down the spine".Researchers used a variety of methods to measure the effect of music on the body, including heart rate, blood pressure, sweat response, breathing and brain wave activity. Scanning techniques have allowed scientists to look at changes in specific parts of the brain.

Dr Levitin found instrumental music such as classical, jazz, techno or bluegrass were better for people studying text to avoid becoming distracted. Energetic tunes with a tempo above 96 beats per minute were best for those cooking, cleaning or doing household chores.
Article

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