Why does music make us feel?

Has there been a time in your life when a certain song or a certain musical score made you feel absolutely elated? On the other hand, I’m sure there have also been times where you’ve gone through a heartbreak and a sentimental track has made you feel that heartbreak a lot more intensely.

Music has always aided in the amplification of emotions. Happy notes make you feel very high spirited and at the same time melancholic music can make you feel sadness very passionately.

Ever wondered, what is it about music that augments all those feelings?

In 2001, neuroscientists Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre at McGill University in Montreal provided an answer. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) they showed that people listening to pleasurable music had activated brain regions called the limbic and paralimbic areas, which are connected to euphoric reward responses, like those we experience from sex, good food and addictive drugs. Those rewards come from a gush of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. [1]

Dopamine is also known as a happiness hormone. It is one of the four hormones – Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. These are famously known as happy hormones that promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love.

There is also another theory among scientists who study the cognition of music – how we process it mentally – dates back to 1956, when the philosopher and composer Leonard Meyer suggested that emotion in music is all about what we expect and when we find what we’re looking for, be it love or a cigarette, the payoff is all sweet and it is what makes us feel elated. [2]

Even when it comes to melancholic music, it does add passion to your sadness, but not in a way that will make you repulse from music. Even if we do feel sad, it’s not like the sadness of bereavement – it can be enjoyable even if it provokes tears. 

Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Research has shown time and again that music helps a great deal in relieving stress, by soothing your mind and by elevating your mood, or making you feel high spirited overall.

So, what are you waiting for? Go play your favorite tune and dance away to it. Music truly has a healing power like no other 🙂

Sources: BBC.COM – Article by Philip Ball, 19th April 2013

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