I happened to catch Daniel Levitin (the author of This Is Your Brain on Music) on the Commonwealth Club on NPR a few weeks ago, and I was so intrigued by the interview that I went online to hear it again last night. This time I took notes!
Dr Daniel Levitin is a cognitive psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, and he said music is involved in every region of the brain scientists have mapped so far. Music is processed in the emotional part of the brain. It stays deep in our long-term memory.
Research shows that listening to music releases certain chemicals in the brain. Dopamine, a “feel-good hormone” is released every time you listen to music you like. Listening to music with someone else can also release prolactin, a hormone that bonds people together. And if you sing together? You release oxytocin, which causes feelings of trust.
I have happy memories of singing “Shine on Harvest Moon” during car rides with my sisters and Flo, I am still bonded to friends I made in my high school band, and yes, I do get a happy feeling whenever I hear a good tune. Everythinghe Levitin said about hormones made perfect sense to me, but his claim later on that humans develop a taste for music by the time we are five years old seemed a bit outlandish.
Then again, my brother Doug did buy us that piano when I was three or four years old, and when I flip through our CD collection, what do I find? A heavy dose of piano players. Randy Newman. Todd Rundgren. Stevie Wonder. Joni Mitchell. Marcus Roberts. Ben Folds Five. Maybe that Levitin guy is on to something after all.
I’m off to play the stereo now. Bring on the dopamine! What music do you like to listen to? Leave a comment — I’d love to hear what sort of music gets you high.