Music stimulates the same part of the brain that good food, sex, and drugs do, revealed a recent study. “This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” said Daniel Levitin, from McGill University in Canada.
Levitin said scientists had earlier used neuroimaging to map areas of the brain that are active during moments of musical pleasure. During the process, scientists could only infer the involvement of the opioid system, and nothing further, reported media.
However, in the latest study, scientists figured out a way to selectively and temporarily block the opioid substances produced in the brain, which are associated with feelings of calm and pleasure. (Opioids also refer to a class of drugs, derived from opium, that help relieve pain.)
The researchers used naltrexone, a drug used for treating addiction disorders, to block opioids. Responses of participants to music were then analysed to find that even the participants’ favourite songs did not trigger feelings of pleasure anymore. Seventeen people took part in the study.
“But the anecdotes – the impressions our participants shared with us after the experiment – were fascinating. One said: ‘I know this is my favorite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does’,” Levitin said.
The study of the neurological roots of pleasure can open new avenues for scientists in the field of neuroscience research. The scientists involved in the latest study said the new findings “add to the growing body of evidence for the evolutionary biological substrates of music”.