For as long as sound has existed, music has always been tied to deep emotion in all living beings. It's one of the stimuli that are most likely to evoke a memory or intense reaction, one of the strange phenomena that allow humans to access a different mental or emotional space than the one they were in before.

The reason for these sensations, as discovered in a study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, is that the experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for tangible pleasures such as food, sex, or drugs. Certain instances of dopamine release were associated with "chills"--physical changes in heart rate, breathing, and temperature, due to listening to music.

For the listener, musical chills feel something like a sudden onset of emotion--a mental reaction followed by an actual physical reaction of the body to the sound. Sometimes, we are able to identify such chills by the feeling of shivers running down the backs of our spines; others, we think of them as goosebumps rising on our skin from being so moved.

In the study, a number of brain imaging techniques were employed in order to monitor the changes of dopamine when listening to certain music. It was even concluded that this was the first time such a substantial dopamine release was brought about by an abstract reward--in this case, music.

The research team discovered that 5 songs in particular across a number of genres created musical chills in the people who listened to them--and, ultimately, a positive emotional response. These 5 songs have been shown to trigger dopamine release and subsequently increase your happiness:

1. "Clair de Lune" -- Debussy

2. "Adagio for Strings" -- Barber

3. "Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor ("The Tempest")" -- Beethoven

4. "First Breath After Coma" -- Explosions in the Sky

5. "Adagio for Strings" -- Tiesto

Published on: Jan 5, 2017
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