Music and sex stimulate the same part of the brain
When researchers blocked the production of natural opioid substances, people no longer liked their favourite songs as much Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll has been a preoccupation of generations of young people since the 1960s, while even even Shakespeare wrote: “If music be the food of love, play on.”
And now scientists have discovered one reason why they seem to go so well together.
For the same chemical system in the brain that produces feelings of pleasure as a result of having sex, taking recreational drugs or eating tasty food is also stimulated by listening to a favourite tune.
To test the theory, the researchers found a way to temporarily block the natural opioid substances produced when we are having a good time.
Seventeen test subjects were then played music to see if doing this had an effect.
Dr Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Canada as well as a musician and record producer, said: “The impressions our participants shared with us after the experiment were fascinating.
“One said: ‘I know this is my favourite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does’.
“Another admitted: ‘It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me’.”
He added that this was the first time it had been shown conclusively that opioids in the brain were “directly involved in musical pleasure”.
Alcohol, sex, gambling and other activities that stimulate this system can lead to damaging addictive behaviour in a similar way to recreational drugs.
It is hoped that understanding the processes involved could help lead to new ways to treat addiction.
This again harks back to Shakespeare. The full sentence above, spoken by the apparently heartbroken Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, is: “If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
The researchers said the ability of music to affect our emotions so strongly suggested humans have evolved over a long period to like it
Music and the Brain: The Benefits of Music
A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. According to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation (NAMM Foundation), learning to play an instrument can improve mathematical learning and even increase SAT scores.
But academic achievement isn’t the only benefit of music education and exposure. Music ignites all areas of child development and skills for school readiness: intellectual, social and emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps the body and the mind work together. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, music helps strengthen memory skills.
In addition to the developmental benefits of music, why is music important? Simply put, it provides us with joy. Just think about listening to a good song on the car radio with the window down on a beautiful day. That’s joy.