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Music Acts The Same Way As Other Addictive Pleasures

Update Date: Feb 09, 2017 09:14 AM EST

New study from Canada found how part of our brains that enjoys music is linked to the part that feels pleasure from sex, recreational drugs, and food. The study was published on Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

There are two phases in the brain that experience pleasure. The first phase is the anticipatory or wanting phase, which is driven by the neurotransmitter dopamine. The second phase is the consummatory or liking phase that it is driven by opioids in the brain.

Live Science reported the study is the first demonstration that shows the brain's own opioids involved in musical pleasure said Daniel Levitin of McGill University. Previous studies showed opioids were linked to pleasure people derive from experiences such as sex, food and drugs.

According to Daily Mail the researchers blocked opioids in test subjects' brains using naltrexone, a widely prescribed drug for treating addiction disorders. Researchers used the drug to block the chemical compounds in the brain that activate the pleasure center.

The participants were asked to select two songs they considered very pleasurable. Then researchers added emotionally neutral music. They measured the participant's reactions as they listened to the music.

After a week the participants returned to repeat the experiment. But those who were given naltrexone were given placebo and vice versa.

Researchers measured facial-muscle activity, heart rate, breathing rate and were given surveys to evaluate their emotional responses. Participants were asked to rate the song between 0 (no pleasure) and 10 (a lot of pleasure).

Those who were given naltrexone had a decrease in emotional reactions and their subjective reactions only changed when they listened to their chosen songs. After the team measured their responses they found they no longer responded to music when that part of the brain was blocked.

Dr Levitin said the study proved to be the most involved, difficult and Sisyphean task their lab had undertaken in 20 years of research. The 17 participants were all required to have a blood test after the experiment to ensure no side effects from the drug.

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