Human Response to Music

Listening to music releases certain neurochemicals according to psychologist Dr. Daniel Levitin.

Enjoyable music stimulates the brain to release dopamine, a so-called “feel-good hormone.”  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells.  It helps regulate emotional responses.  It also enables people to seek rewards and to take action to move toward them.

Music can also prompt the release of prolactin, the comforting hormone that is associated with mothers lactating and feeding their infants.  Prolactin is also known as luteotropic hormone (LTH).  It is a peptide hormone and a protein.

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Music can increase libido, says obstetrician and author of “The Scientification of Love,” Dr. Michel Odent. Listening to slow, rhythmic melodies releases the hormone oxytocin in the brain. Sometimes called the “love” hormone or “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin regulates the ability to bond to others in relationships and is released by both men and women during sexual encounters. “Slow tempo music also creates an atmosphere of calm,” asserts Odent, “which encourages loss of inhibitions.”

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter produced by the brain’s pituitary gland.

Oxytocin suppresses the activity of the brain region known as the amygdala, the area that processes fear and communicates it to the rest of the brain. It evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around one’s mate.

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Loud music can function as a self-medicating drug.

Barry Blesser, Ph. D. wrote:

Although the inner ear is thought to be the only means of sensing sound, there are reports that the sacculus (a component of the inner ear’s vestibular/balancing system) responds to low frequency sounds that are above 90 dB (Todd and Cody, 2000; Todd, 2001). Furthermore, the sacculus has neural connections to those parts of the brain that are responsive to all forms of pleasure. By activating the sacculus, loud music with a strong beat may be a form of vestibular self-stimulation.

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Dr. Neil Todd performed an experiment with a group of students at Manchester University.  The students’ saccular sensitivity was found to range from 50 Hz to 1,000 Hz, peaking between 300 and 350 Hz.

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The range of intensity between pleasure and damage is extremely small.

Prolonged exposure to loud music may permanently damage hearing and cause audiogenic stress symptoms.

– Tom Irvine

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