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Why Our Brains Love Powerful Music

Researchers say emotionally intense music releases dopamine in the brain, the same chemical that creates a sensation of reward while eating good food, having sex or taking drugs.

What’s the Latest Development?

Thanks to his research into the emotional content of music, British psychologist John Sloboda might say he has a unique understanding of tonight’s Grammy awards. In a study, Sloboda asked music lovers to identify the parts of a song they thought to be the most powerful. “When Dr. Sloboda analyzed their properties, a trend emerged: 18 contained a musical device called an ‘appoggiatura’.” An appoggiatura creates emotional tension within the listener by clashing an ornamental note with the melody to create a dissonant sound.

What’s the Big Idea?

Your brain’s chemistry is behind your emotional reaction to musicand just about everything elsesays psychologist Martin Guhn of the University of British Columbia, who has studied how individuals react to the music of British pop sensation Adele. Other studies confirm that emotionally charged music causes the brain to release dopaminethe chemical that creates the feel-good sensation when we are eating well, having sex and taking drugswhether the song is depressing or uplifting. Has the music industry got us hooked on our own brains?

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