Sex, Drugs, and Music: Diving into Our Brains


Music is more than just something that you listen to in your car.

Listening to music releases the hormones dopamine and serotonin into the brain. Dopamine improves your mood, induces pleasure, relieves anxiety and more. This chemical is also tied to motivation and addiction.

A study performed at The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital by The Neuro at McGill University used PET and fMRI brain imaging techniques to measure dopamine release while one was listening to music. Dr. Robert Zatorre, neuroscientist at The Neuro says, “These findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry in the brain… This is the first demonstration that an abstract reward such as music can lead to dopamine release. Abstract rewards are largely cognitive in nature, and this study paves the way for future work to examine non-tangible rewards that humans consider rewarding…”

Music can be tied to the same chemical in the brain that is stimulated by the use of recreational drugs, sex, and good food. These three things all use the same reward system in the brain.

Sophomore and UNG nursing major, Madison Walker, says, “Music is what brought me out of a dark state of mind when I was facing a few of life’s struggles. When I need a place to go when I am sad, happy, or overwhelmed, music is what I choose to go to. I completely agree with the idea that music is connected to us on an emotional and psychological level.”

Walker adds, “It’s honestly not a surprise that music helps calm our nerves. It calms babies and even animals. My dog Lillie struggles with separation anxiety and the only thing that seems to keep her calm is by putting on music while she’s alone in her crate, or else she’ll bark until it drives you crazy.”

“We may be sitting on one of the most widely available and cost effective therapeutic modalities that ever existed… Listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication…” says Gabe Turow, scholar in the Department of Music, in research done at Stanford University.