Music Triggers the Same Part of the Brain as Heroin, Study Finds
In a recent study by McGill University, cognitive psychologists found that the high from music has a similar effect on the brain as strong opioids.This article originally appeared on Digital Music News
Heroin, oxycontin, and other powerful opioids trigger extremely powerful highs, that we know. But the high delivered by music is highly correlated, according to research now emerging.
And it turns out music isn’t like heroin, it’s almost the same thing. And now, there are scientific test results showing that the same regions of mechanisms of the brain are being affected. “This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” said cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, who spearheaded the McGill University study.
Levitan and his team had long theorized that music was targeting the same part of the brain as powerful opioids. But it was always an unproven hypothesis. So they set out to isolate the exact area of the brain excited by heroin and other opioids, and see what happened.
The first step was to temporarily ‘decommission’ the region of the brain excited by heroine with targeted drugs. The achieved this with Naltrexone (NTX), a drug that basically dulls the ‘hedonics’ system of the brain:
Naltrexone (NTX) and the chemically similar naloxone are broad-spectrum antagonists that block μ-opioid, kappa and (to a lesser extent, 10:1) delta opioid receptors. They have been shown to reduce reward after physical activity, reduce food pleasantness and subjective appetite during eating and modulate pain and mood.
The results were strange but telling. Test subjects would hear their favorite songs, but reported little emotional reaction. In other words, they knew they loved a particular song, but only from previous emotional experiences. The brains of these subjects, partially incapacitated in specific regions, simply couldn’t respond in their normal fashion. “One [test participant] said: ‘I know this is my favorite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does.’ Another: ‘It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.’”
Cover photo courtesy of fotobias