woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be difficult for me to guess, due to the large number and variety of music styles. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song probably brings about a strong emotional response.

When people talk about their favorite music, they regularly describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve most likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this sensation is not dependent on any one type of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. Even though each participant expressed an intense emotional reaction, the music genres ranged from classical to jazz to punk rock. With so much diversity, what was responsible for this underlying emotional reaction?

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered a direct connection between the elation created by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that has an effect on emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. As reported by Richard Depue, professor at Cornell University: “When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to go after goals or rewards, such as food, sex, money, education or professional achievements.”

So music is associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional response it creates. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s return to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or provided a powerful emotional response? If so, you’ve just identified one of the most effective ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and motivation.

So what type of music should you go with to achieve these positive emotional responses? The main insight from the aforementioned research is that it is dependent completely on your preferences. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you receive from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you react viscerally to certain songs, you can utilize those songs to arouse the sought after emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each scenario.

For example, if heavy metal gets you pumped up and stimulated for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re trying to relax after a busy day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the way to go.

And last, if you have hearing loss, consider that the latest hearing aid technology that can stream music wirelessly from portable devices straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite music on your phone or portable device, send it wirelessly to your hearing aids, and let the dopamine start flowing.


By the way, what is your favorite song? And which songs or music genres bring about strong responses or specific moods for you?

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