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Music Affects Your Brain in Similar Ways as Drugs and Sex

Music Affects Your Brain in Similar Ways as Drugs and Sex: Didier Robcis / Getty

Didier Robcis / Getty

Listening to music makes us feel good. So do drugs. And so does sex. A new study from McGill University in Montreal determined that the same brain chemicals are involved in all three experiences. During all three, your brain produces natural opioids, which give you feelings of pleasure. Scientists realized they could turn off that pleasure system by giving people a drug called naltrexone.

According to the report, “Participants were asked to bring to the laboratory two music recordings that reliably produced intense feelings of pleasure for them, including but not limited to the sensation of chills.” When people were given naltrexone before listening to the music they brought, they had no real response to it. One person who participated in the study said, “I know this is my favorite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does.” Another told the researchers, “It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.”

David Levitin, a cognitive psychologist and the paper’s senior author, said, “This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure.” The drug affected participants’ positive and negative feelings as they listened to their favorite songs, suggesting that opioids are critical to experiencing an emotional reaction to music. The researchers concluded that “music uses the same reward pathways as food, drug and sexual pleasure.”

We have two conclusions from this study: If you want to feel good, hit “Play” on a song you love—and if anyone offers you a dose of naltrexone, just say no.

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