First of all, it is important to note that pop is not above the rest of the musical genres. They identify this style because it was the one they used in order to obtain uniform results. The investigations will continue with other types of music, so as not to generate controversy. What is decisive is that the harmonies activated the same stimulus brain region as alcohol or cocaine. Neuroscientist-led studies were conducted that analyzed brain activity in each of the participants.
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Daily Mail review that the study was led by neuroscientists from the McGill University in Montreal. They were able to analyze the effects of pop music on the brain by relying on magnetic images and at the same time executing transcranial magnetic stimulation. Performing this stimulation exercise led the participants to feel greater pleasure thanks to the music that they were playing. The brain has a series of auditory circuits that connect to reward circuits. So, although the route is different, the reward center was the same for addictive substances and pop music.
They detail that cocaine and alcohol stimulate a region they call mesolimbic dopamine in the brain through a reward pathway. This same pathway is stimulated by other types of situations in which there are other types of drugs, food, sex and the special guest of this study: music.
“The ability of music to induce feelings of pleasure has been the subject of intense neuroscientific research lately. The current results indicate that the participation of the cortico-striatal pathways is essential for the experience of musical reward ”, said the authors of the research, belonging to the Canadian think tank.
The stimulated brain region
The aforementioned portal details that the authors identify the specific region that is activated under the mentioned stimulations. It is an area called the midbrain, also known as the ventral tegmental area. It extends to the nucleus accumbens. The latter is one of the brain’s key reward areas.
In the same way, this same region, in addition to the reward, is capable of regulating certain emotions, according to other research by the National Institutes of Health in the United States. Other studies that have used neurological images have already found a relationship of similarities between the reward circuits generated by music and these same actions generated by food or money. However, the determination that one causes the other is unproven. Unlike cocaine, alcohol, and pop music, which do have a direct impact on this brain region.
The study with pop music as the protagonist
In the first place, since pop music was the one that was going to be used, they asked each of the volunteers if this genre was their favorite. It needed to be their preference, for a real reward or stimulation to be analyzed in the brain. In total there were 17 participants who came to the study center voluntarily. That is, they were selected randomly.
While the participants listened to pop music, a device measured brain activity through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They destroy brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.
Brain reward is an action that we perform when the mind itself asks us for something. A clear example of this is hunger. There is a signal that tells us that the body needs food and we go to the kitchen.
Addictions set in and progressively become a reward for the brain. So this is what they managed to point out with the musical sounds. “Music consists of a series of sounds that when considered on their own have no inherent value, but when organized together through patterns over time can act as a reward,” concluded Dr. Robert Zatorre, lead author. of the study.