Most people enjoy music. Maybe we don’t all like the same kinds of tunes, but whether your prefer classical or country, RnB or rock, neuroscience research suggests that the part of the brain associated with highs from sex, drugs and (my weakness) chocolate also generates our pleasurable response to melodies and harmonies. This is the nucleus accumbens, a primitive part of the brain.
Neuroscience PhD student Kiralee Musgrove and researchers from the University of Melbourne are recruiting fans of electronic music fans to exploring the connection between cravings and the sounds of dance beats.
“In evolutionary terms, it makes sense that we would have a profound pleasure response to sex or food, but it’s not so obvious why music also makes our spine tingle or our heart race. We’re interested in why we don’t just hear music, but why we also feel it in our bodies. Science doesn’t really understand how the brain makes that leap from hearing to feeling,” she said.
There have been a number of studies on people’s pleasure responses to classical composers. However, researchers have not studied musical forms that appeals to young people.
The connection with cravings
Ms Musgrove said her study will look at how cravings anticipate our pleasure responses to music.
“As anyone craving a chocolate bar would know, half the pleasure is in the anticipation. We think craving typically precedes pleasure.”
Electronic music typically features a build up, before “dropping” back to the bass and melody.
“In nightclubs, dancers get really excited as everything builds to the ‘drop’—they experience peak levels of craving driven by the perception of risk,” Ms Musgrove said.
“It’s that moment when the bass is about to drop when some amazing reactions are happening inside your brain.”