By Joshua Blake
So, I’ve been sitting here in my recliner listening to music for about an hour and a half, and I remembered something. Every now and then I wonder if music addiction is a real thing. God, I hope so, music kicks ass!
But in all honesty, there doesn’t seem to be much “expert analysis” on Music Addiction Disorder (M.A.D.). I’ve been researching it for the past hour or so, and it seems to be all here-say. Except one researcher by the name of Dr. Valorie Salimpoor conducted a study at the Montreal Neurological Institute back in 2011, to see if music was as addictive as drugs, food, or sex.
“Usually, behavior-us things that last for this long a period of time, are things that are absolutely necessary for survival – things like eating and sex,” said Dr. Salimpoor. So, how does music fit in if it’s not necessary?
That’s where the dopamine reward system comes into play. How does that work? Well, dopamine levels increase when the brain predicts a reward. Although if the result isn’t the predicted outcome, your dopamine levels go down.
By looking at blood-oxygenation changes, you may be able to find if music plays a part in this “reward system.” However Dr. Salimpoor said that problem with that was this doesn’t show if dopamine is involved. Although, not all hope is lost.
Positron Emission Tomography was then used to locate where dopamine was released in the brain. “We have people come in over two days,” said Dr. Salimpoor, “so one day they bring in music they really, really, really like – just this music that gives them those really intense feelings.”
A radioactive molecule was used to bond with dopamine receptors to track whether or not dopamine was released. If there was a bond, no dopamine was present and vice-versa. Next, FMRI was used to track dopamine patterns. While listening to music, patients had dopamine released in the Ventral Striatum, 15 seconds before the peak emotional moment. “This is the same area that shows dopamine release when people do cocaine,” said Dr. Salimpoor.
Bethany Brookshire wrote a piece about dopamine for Slate about a year ago, arguing that dopamine is more than just love or addiction. Dopamine controls a lot of the things that we do, and perhaps listening to music is one of them – I think it should be – music is universal and it connects people in unbelievable ways.