Why Humans Love Music
Scientists have discovered that the joy of music is a powerful motivating force. It affects the brain in the same way that language can, stimulating neural processes that result in arousal and reward. Researchers also discovered that listening to music can increase optimism and sensitivity to others’ feelings. They found that the dynamic and sound variations of music can evoke different feelings in the listener. The same goes for the oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone.”
The auditory cortex of the brain is formed by the sounds a person hears throughout their life, which explains why one particular genre is more enjoyable than others. This part of the brain is involved in reinforcing behaviors and is involved in the dopaminergic reward circuitry. These two pathways are also linked to the sensation of pleasure, making music highly enjoyable. This is an important step in understanding why humans enjoy music.
Neuroimaging studies are often correlational, but they show similarities between reward circuits and brain regions. For example, a 2001 study from McGill College focused on the neural mechanics of goosebumps. In addition to the music’s emotional effect, it also stimulates the same brain structures associated with other euphoric stimuli. Hence, music is a universal experience. But what makes it so powerful?