I am not a scientist or academic. But I have always had the gut feeling that somehow listening to music is somehow therapeutic, that it might bring healing and even if it didn’t, it surely could bring pleasure. I have felt this no matter the genre or artist within a genre (well, OK, there is indeed some “bad” music out there, but I try to avoid those anyway…) whether it be John Adam’s Harmonium, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Dvorak’s Slavic Dances, Mozart’s Requiem , Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, BB King’s Every Day I Have the Blues, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, AC-DC Back in Black or Coldplay’s Viva La Vida….it doesn’t matter too much….music like this moves me.
Now there is a paper out in Nature Neuroscience documenting what happens in our minds and bodies when we listen to music we love. Wired Magazine ran a story on this here that included this great bit of information:
Because the scientists were combining methodologies (PET and fMRI) they were able to obtain an impressively precise portrait of music in the brain. The first thing they discovered (using ligand-based PET) is that music triggers the release of dopamine in both the dorsal and ventral striatum. This isn’t particularly surprising: these regions have long been associated with the response to pleasurable stimuli. It doesn’t matter if we’re having sex or snorting cocaine or listening to Kanye: These things fill us with bliss because they tickle these cells. Happiness begins here.
So, go put on your favorite tunes first before you pop a pill and relax and soak it up.
This research adds additional credence to the benefit of bringing music to places such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and facilities and homes for the developmentally disabled. Music is cheap and risk-free therapy! Rock on!! (The fine print: Make sure to protect your hearing.)